“Tired Generation”: How Digital Eye Strain Affects Your Sleep

We Tested Pixel Eyewear’s Blue Light Glasses to See if They Helped Our Sleep


Whether you’re constantly refreshing your Twitter feed, tagging your friends in memes on Instagram or being taunted by Netflix’s ‘Are you still there?’ screen while binge-watching, chances are likely you’re overexposing yourself to harmful blue light from digital screens.

Overexposure has the potential to lead to numerous psychological and physical problems, including sleep problems. 

Up to 40 percent of people experience insomnia at some point in their lives. Of that 40 percent, some will develop ongoing struggles with sleep. These sleep struggles are often triggered by a significant life stressor, but episodes of insomnia can last for years or even decades- long after the stressor has since disappeared.

There is a lot of concern about the conditions of modern life creating a particular vulnerability to insomnia- we are more stressed than ever, more stimulated than ever, and have many facets of modern life that are hazardous to good sleep. Even just 50 years ago, we did not have Starbucks on every corner, light pollution, 24-hour news cycle, screens on multiple devices, craft beer…..you get the picture.

Screens and light pollution are actually a big part of the problem because the major input for our clock system (circadian rhythm) is exposure to full-spectrum light to our eyeballs. We have receptors within our retinas which are excited by light exposure and give feedback to our central clock (the suprachiasmatic nuclei within the pineal gland) about whether we should be awake or asleep based on the stimulation from light.

More recently, scientists have discovered that it is the blue wavelength of light that creates the biggest challenge, so we have been working to try to establish ways to filter blue light to minimize the impact on our clock system. Both the intensity of light and the timing of the light exposure matter. Our clock is happy with full-spectrum light during the time we are awake but needs only dim light or no light for sleep to occur.

Our sleep onset process within the clock system actually starts about 2 hours before we fall asleep, so blue light exposure during this time can be particularly problematic.

There have been a few possible solutions to this particular modern struggle. Many of the companies that make screens have been testing night features which are intended to reduce the amount of blue light that is emitted from the screen. An alternative to adjusting the screen has been the development of glasses that block blue light. I have seen some of the early renditions of these glasses, and they were funny looking, to say the least: big, amber lenses meant to block all pathways of blue light.

The studies on these interventions are mixed in their results. A 2009 study by Burkhart and Phelps demonstrated that amber lenses improved sleep quality but they also had a small sample size.

Esaki et al (2016) found that there were benefits to sleep latency for people with delayed sleep onset when they wore blue-light blocking glasses. In a different study, the same research group found no statistical benefits to sleep or depression in people with major depressive disorder and insomnia using blue light blocking glasses but had some participants who reported a perceived benefit. A perceived benefit, although not statistically meaningful, can actually matter- sleep is so subjective that even feeling better can be beneficial.

Pixel Eyewear Study

For our less than scientific study, Shrink Tank staffers wore the Pixel glasses during the course of a normal day for three days and then did not wear them during the last three days. They wore a wrist actigraph, which is a clinical tool used to estimate sleep and wakefulness by measuring body activity and light exposure; imagine a really expensive FitBit that has been exhaustively empirically validated. The actigraph is actually able to detect blue light exposure, green light exposure, and white light (full spectrum).

Some of the results we saw in our own experiment were that there is a pretty big variance in the time that people go to bed and wake up.

One of the participants, Mariel, had a significantly shortened latency to sleep onset with the Pixel glasses, while the other two had pretty consistent schedules under both conditions. The interesting factor with that outcome is the fact that, Mariel, who experienced the most benefit also happens to have been the participant with the highest intensity white light exposure and activity level (they were the only participant whose job involves sitting in front of a screen much of the day).

The Participants

Mariel’s Experience

Pictured: Mariel, Project Manager and Marketer for Shrink Tank. She is wearing Pixel’s Ventus frames in Whiskey Tortoise.


What is your estimated exposure to blue-light from screen time? 

I’d say I definitely have an excessive exposure to blue light. Nearly all of my daily responsibilities at work require screen time, as well as the fact that I actively look at social media on my phone outside of work.
What is your opinion on the fit? 

I absolutely love my Pixel frames. To be honest, I’ve always been (admittedly) ungrateful for my 20/20 vision by wishing that I had the vision problems that would require me to wear cute glasses… If that isn’t a first-world problem, I don’t know what is. That being said, Pixel’s give me the option to A) indulge in this ridiculous notion while B) protecting my eyes.
What is your opinion on the perceived effectiveness?

Prior to owning Pixel glasses, my long days in front of the screen would leave my eyes feeling sore and heavy by mid-afternoon. Since I’ve started wearing these glasses every day for work, I’ve noticed a drastic improvement with this soreness. As far as sleeping patterns go, I’ve always been a pretty deep sleeper.

However, I’ve noticed that since I’ve started wearing these glasses, it takes me less time to wind down before bed, which is always a plus.
Describe your experience participating in the study. Recall your light exposure/sleep habits while wearing the actigraph.

The study was a really cool experience because I could feel a drastic difference in my sleep performance on the nights I wasn’t wearing the glasses.

Of the three of us who participated in the study, I knew that I had the most amount of blue light exposure, so I was curious to see how the results portrayed that.

I remember sleeping fairly well the days I did wear the glasses and sleeping incredibly poorly the days I did not. While I understand there could’ve been outside factors playing into this, I was curious to see how my results reflected my sleep pattern.

Mariel’s Data

DATA: Mariel, who experienced the most benefit also happens to have been the participant with the highest intensity white light exposure and activity level (they were the only participant whose job involves sitting in front of a screen much of the day).


Jonathan’s Experience

Pictured: Jonathan, Managing Editor and Chief Strategist for Shrink Tank. He is wearing Pixel’s Omni frames in black.

What is your estimated exposure to blue-light from screen time? (minimal, moderate, excessive exposure) 

Moderate to excessive. My days are divided between seeing clients (I am a licensed professional counselor) and working on tasks related to the website.

It is common for me to be working on a computer in the evening when I am home.

What is your opinion on the fit?

My face is not ideally suited for heavy frames. I have an oily complexion and a petite, pudgy nose. I do wear contact lenses and glasses in the evening time. My personal frames are wireframes, which weigh very little. So it took some adjustment for me to use the frames.

What is your opinion on the perceived effectiveness? 

I honestly could not tell much difference when it came to stress on my eyes. I could tell the difference in color saturation. But my eyesight neither improved or deteriorated. I couldn’t recommend these glasses but I also wouldn’t steer someone away from using them.

Describe your experience participating in the study. Recall your light exposure/sleep habits while wearing the actigraph.

I tend to be a heavy sleeper, which has changed as I’ve aged. So I noticed little difference in my sleep habits.

Jonathan’s Data

DATA: Jonathan’s sleep was unaffected by Pixel, but that would likely be due to the fact that Jonathan does a really good job of getting into dimmer light in the evening, the most critical time for his sleep system.

Emma Kate’s Experience


Pictured: Emma Kate, Shrink Tank Podcast panelist and writer/contributor for Shrink Tank. She is wearing Oryc frames in Whiskey Tortoise.

Estimated blue-light exposure:


What is your opinion on the fit? (Comfort and style) 

I love the design and style of these glasses! They are sleek and beautiful.

Regarding comfort, they took some getting used to because I’m fortunate enough to have excellent vision and have never worn glasses before. I will comment on the fact that I found myself awkwardly staring at people because I kept thinking I was wearing sunglasses! So for me, at times, the glasses made me socially uncomfortable.

What is your opinion on the perceived effectiveness? 

Truthfully, I have not worn these glasses as much as some of my colleagues have, so I haven’t noticed an effect on my sleep yet.

Describe your experience participating in the study. Recall your light exposure/sleep habits while wearing the actigraph.

To my knowledge, I did not change my habits during our mini-study. I exercise a few times a week, and I usually average about 8 hours of sleep. I get most of my blue light exposure from reading on my phone in the evenings, but I’m also on my computer a fair amount during the day. However, my office does not have a window, which is very different from the large windows in the Shrink Tank space. Overall, I didn’t notice much of a difference or feel like I was in a study. I just went about my normal day-to-day activities, and I just happened to wear some awesome looking glasses!

Emma Kate’s Data

DATA: Emma Kate experienced a few advantages related to wearing Pixel: she got into bed 45 minutes earlier than the day she didn’t wear them, fell asleep 20 minutes earlier than her day without, and had 18 minutes more sleep for the night. Wearing Pixel did not affect her nocturnal awakenings (36 versus 35) or time spent awake during the night (51 minutes versus 34.5), but we wouldn’t really expect daytime light exposure to affect her sleep quality once she had fallen asleep.

Brandon’s Experience

Pictured: Brandon, Project Manager, and Marketer for Psych Bytes. He is wearing Lepo frames in black.

Estimated blue-light exposure:

What is your opinion on the fit?

Pixel glasses look and feel great. The Omni frames are much lighter than my prescription glasses and can be worn for extended periods of time. I’m surprised at how durable the glasses are, considering the lack of weight and thickness that most glasses have. Pixel did a great job with the design and quality of the Omni frames.
What is your opinion on the perceived effectiveness?

At first, I didn’t notice any immediate changes to my health. As I’ve been wearing Pixels more consistently, I’m starting to notice their benefits when I’m NOT wearing them. For example, when I don’t wear my glasses to work, my eyes feel heavy during the afternoon. Is it a DRAMATIC difference? Not really. But it’s nice to know that a little discomfort can be solved with Pixels.

Describe your overall experience. 

Overall, I would recommend Pixel glasses for those constantly exposed to screens. Pixels look nice, feel great, and they successfully block out blue light. They won’t completely change your life, but why deal with eye strain or fatigue if it can be prevented with Pixel glasses?

Sean’s Experience


Pictured: Sean, Director of Audio and Visual for Shrink Tank. He is wearing Lepo frames in Emerald 

What is your estimated exposure to blue-light from screen time?

Excessive (roughly 8 hours at work and 3-4 hours outside of work).

What is your opinion on the fit?

 I’m a huge fan of both the Buteo and Lepo designs. What stood out most was the simplicity of the Buteo design and the way it fits the shape of my head. The Lepo design is also simple but has subtle green and yellow design accents that caught my attention.

What is your opinion on the perceived effectiveness? 

As someone who relies on screens in many aspects of my career, I needed something that could help block out blue light and reduce the negative effects from overexposure. After about 2 weeks I started noticing a difference not only in how my eyes felt, but also how they physically looked (notably the disappearing of bags). I would say the glasses have been very effective in both eyesight and physiology.

Describe your overall experience. Try to recall your light exposure/sleep habits while wearing the glasses.

After one month of wearing the glasses, I noticed that I was getting a fuller sleep and waking up less frequently throughout the night.

When the day would wrap up, instead of feeling physically tired in the eyes, I began experiencing a more natural tiredness. I am still exposed to a great deal of [blue] light each day and on days where I did not wear the glasses, I felt the effects of the screens. I noticed that around 2 pm each day my energy levels dropped off and I was very much craving a nap.

When it was time for bed, it took longer to fall into a deep and comfortable sleep. While I understand there are several sleep environmental factors that play a role in the amount of rest we get, or we perceive, I feel as though the Pixel Eyewear has helped to become another commodity that can aid those who use screens throughout the day. I am a firm believer that the ultimate solution to lessening drowsiness, headaches, and fatigue is to simply put the screens away; If I’m being honest with myself, I know that’s easier said than done.

When used in combination with other healthy daily habits, positive sleep environmental factors, and professional advice, Pixel Eyewear can help those in need of tiptoeing closer to happier, better screen-using self.


Thank you to Pixel Eyewear for providing these frames for our review.

If you’re interested in buying your own, use the code SHRINKTANK for $5 off your first pair.


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"Tired Generation": How Digital Eye Strain Affects Your Sleep