Blue-Blocking Glasses and The Common Cold

Blue-blocking glasses: improving the best way to naturally beat a cold?

Christmas started with my two kids getting sick. That meant I was getting crappy sleep and snuggly close to comfort my 1.5-year-old.

Then we visited the family for Christmas. My mother-in-law was sick. Then we went to see my new baby niece. Her brothers, sisters and her mother were sick.

Pretty much everyone I knew (or interacted with) was either sick or had some sort of lingering cough in the past month.

Strangely, for the first winter season in memory, I haven’t gotten sick (yet.)

This is odd for a guy who had the nickname “sick boy” for having missed so much school because of repeated bouts with bronchitis to the point where my family had bought special contraptions to help puffers work better.

I always thought that colds were due to shared and stale air from being forced indoors during winter.

Perhaps it’s also a cultural vitamin D deficiency in the winter as we cover our skin with winter clothes, and the sun’s UV rays become weaker—making our immune systems weaker and colds easier to transmit.

Maybe it’s both of those things (and more.)

But I think I found a secret weapon to fight back.

My night-time blue-blocking glasses.

We know that wearing blue-blocking glasses at night will improve sleep. (2009 study2009 study2016 study2018 study2018 study)

They likely improve sleep by blocking blue (and green) light at night, which has been found to disrupts natural melatonin production (2001 study). (I discuss this more in the article covering my candle-lit experiment.)

The secret is in natural melatonin production

What’s the big deal about melatonin? Well, it’s hormone our body makes naturally at night when our body is supposed to be in the pitch black. It:

  • it tells fat to be burnt rather than stored (2013 study)
  • it is a powerful antioxidant—even more powerful than vitamin C or beta-carotene (2015 study, study)
  • it protects us from cancer (2017 study)
  • it might reduce our appetite—lowering cravings for late-night snacking (study)
  • it plays a critical role in our circadian rhythm, and there is a mountain of evidence that a “disturbed” circadian rhythm can negatively affect cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even prevent women from having a healthy pregnancy (study)
  • it helps with fertility and having a healthy pregnancy (2014 review)
  • it makes you look younger and more youthful (study, study)
  • it can help you build muscle through better tissue repair and activating growth factor synthesis (study)

Quality sleep is one of our best tools to fight the common cold

And in a (gross) 2015 study, we know that if you give people the cold virus (rhinovirus) by putting drops in their nose, the people sleeping less than 6 hours were always getting sick.

The people who slept more (think 7–8 hours a night) had a fighting chance to stay healthy.

So we know that good sleep can help fight off colds.

Since it’s winter and the days are shorter, the sun was down around 5 pm. Normally, our body would expect to be gearing down for a long sleep (likely to conserve calories until Spring.)

So, I’d normally pop my blue-blocking glasses on the moment the kids were sleeping, meaning that I’d be wearing them at least 3 hours (or more) before heading to bed around 10-ish.

Was it the 3+ more hours of natural melatonin production that kept me healthy?

There’s no direct research on this yet

I tried looking into research on blue-blockers and getting the common cold. Nothing.

Not only is there no research (as far as I could find), there wasn’t even one article on the entirety of the internet (as listed by Google.) I suppose this article gets to be the first one.

What about the hormone melatonin and the common cold?

Theoretically, that’s how blue-blockers work—by allowing melatonin in our body to work properly despite all the blue light being emitted from our TV, tablets, laptops, and bathroom lights.

A few results. Now we’re getting somewhere.

2004 study on melatonin and viral transmission stated:

“In conclusion, the immunomodulatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective effects of melatonin suggest that this indole must be considered as an additional therapeutic alternative to fight viral diseases.”

2017 review on the circadian clock and viral infections summarized a few other studies and stated:

“While individual molecular circadian components have been reported to modulate viral infection, melatonin, a potent regulator of the circadian rhythm secreted by the pineal gland exhibits wide-ranging anti-viral activity.”

So, melatonin fights viral infections.

Bright blue light at night suppresses melatonin…

So wearing my night-time blue-blockers may be making me into Bruce Willis in Unbreakable? (He never called in sick.)

Is this confirmation bias? Almost certainly, yes.

So, I can’t tell you for sure, but it’s a possibility that my $9 blue-blocking glasses are keeping me (and my wife) relatively healthy.

Maybe I’m crazy, maybe not. (I’ll see how the rest of the season goes.)

What do you think?

Have you bought any night-time blue-blocking glasses? If so, how do you like them?

If not, why not? Does it seem like quackery? Something else? Drop me a reply below in the comments.