What is it?
The colour blue presents us with a deeply ironic contradiction: it is the world’s most common favourite colour and one that induces calm, yet it is one of the most harmful colours when emitted as light from computer and smartphone screens.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, blue wavelengths are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention and mood, but are the most disruptive at night, due to their impact on the body’s production of melatonin, which helps induce sleep.
“The proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown,” says Harvard. “While the light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully.”
The deeper irony is that blue is one of the rarest colours in the natural world – possibly because nature would love us all to sleep better!
The smartphone industry is well aware of the impact of blue light, and apps are available for filtering out blue light, while some manufacturers include it as an option on the handset. Generally, however, most of us are oblivious of the issue, or assume that there is no solution.
Now, however, blue light filtering glasses are becoming widely available, and a local brand is taking up the cause. A new range of blue light glasses has arrived in South African stores and online from Troo, a tech accessory company that sources high-quality fast-charging cables, wireless charging docks, and the like, to promote safer, smarter and more durable products designed to withstand an “on-the-go lifestyle”.
Troo Blue Light Blocking Glasses were developed with a focus on “innovation, design, comfort and high-quality materials”. The eyewear has a coating developed for people who spend a lot of their time indoors and are exposed to blue-violet light from LED lights as well as smartphones, TV, tablets or computer screens.
As someone who suffers from severely disrupted sleep patterns, I decided to try out the Troo glasses, along with the Fitbit Premium app, which provides in-depth sleep analysis. As it happened, I only needed the basic numbers to show me the impact at a glance: from an average of 6 hours 11 minutes a night the week before, my average sleep went up to 7 hours 9 minutes a night when I began using the Blue Light Blocking Glasses for both smartphone use and computer work.
It is the latter where it has had the most impact, and where the difference is most obvious. Look at a Word document without the glasses, and then at the same document with the glasses, and the difference is startling. Switching quickly between the two – with and without glasses – was a revelation. What I always imagined as a pure white page was in fact bathed in blue light.
Put on the glasses, and it takes on a slightly yellow tint. After a few minutes of work, one stops noticing the tint – in the same way, one doesn’t notice the blue tint on the page when wearing regular glasses or none at all. The same difference is noticeable on smartphone screens, but it is on computer screens that we tend to focus hardest while working.
The “high optical clarity lens”, says Troo, can make vision “warmer, softer and clearer”. It does seem that way when doing a quick comparison, but one stops noticing after a while. That is positive, as it means the eyes are adapting easily to the new mode.
The package comes with a small blue flashlight and testing card to enable users to test the effectiveness of the lenses before they use them. That is more of a novelty than anything else, as one would only use it once, in the beginning. It is a useful proof of effectiveness, however, and unique to Troo.
What does it cost?
R149 to R199, including VAT. It is available at a promotional price this week on Takealot for R126, and is among the most affordable gadgets we have yet reviewed.
Why should you care?
Blue light is becoming increasingly pervasive, hitting us at all angles even if we are not staring at screens. LED lights are now commonplace indoors, bathing us in blue light at night during our waking hours. That has a dramatic impact on the quality of our sleeping hours – and low-cost blue-light-blocking glasses are a quick and easy solution.
What are the biggest negatives
- The Troo glasses claim a unisex adult silhouette and modern fashion styling, but some will find them rather formal.
- They are clumsy to wear over existing glasses for those who cannot use computers without prescription spectacles.
What are the biggest positives?
- Shock-resistant water-proof design, and easy to clean; a microfibre carrying case doubles as a lens cleaner.
- Exceptionally good value for money.
- In an initial test, it delivered on its promise.
* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter at @art2gee.