I was as skeptical as you are right now when I first read the claims that wearing orange safety glasses at night might help my insomnia. To my surprise, I’ve found them to be quite effective.
The basic idea is this: you get tired when your body (the pineal gland, specifically) releases melatonin into your bloodstream. This is inhibited as long as the eyes keep sending the signal that there is blue light reaching the retina. Why blue light? It’s the color of the sky, during the day. Turns out candle light and firelight contain very little in the way of light in the blue range of the spectrum. Seems we’ve evolved to adjust for this longstanding pattern of human cycles.
Fellow visual artists out there know that orange and blue are complimentary colors, which means they are the opposite of each other. Therefore, orange-tinted glasses function by blocking out light from the blue range in the spectrum (yes, these are basically the same as the famed “Blue Blockers” As Seen On TV).
It’s important that the orange glasses block the right frequencies of blue light. These very inexpensive UVEX Skyper glasses do the trick (some nerd had the right tools and tested them).
As a regular before-bedtime reader on the iPad, this is my main use. Turns out computer, television and gadget screens pump out even more blue spectrum light than typical lightbulbs.
Some recommend using these as soon as the sun goes down, until bedtime. Yes, that means that you have to wear them in public. And assumes you go to bed relatively early. Me, I put them on late-night but aim for an hour or so before I go to bed. I’m quite amazed by how sleepy I start to get, quite quickly even. In the past I could read for hours and not get tired, now I find myself ready to doze off after 15 minutes. It actually kind of cuts into my reading time!
I noticed the effects quite quickly, but didn’t trust them due to a sort of placebo/expectation effect I suspected I might be biased towards. But with regular use I have found them to really set the sleep process rolling. I’ve dealt with insomnia for long enough to know a difference between the old process of trying to fall asleep and the new one, which happens dramatically faster.
Pair this up with some direct sunlight first thing when you wake up (either natural or via a full-spectrum lamp), and get your natural sleep/wake cycle back on track. For the price of the glasses, I’d say any insomnia sufferers have very little to lose to give these a try. You might find them surprisingly effective as I have.
Bonus tip: ease down the intensity of the light (and the amount of blue spectrum light) on your computer screen with the setting of the sun with the free app f.lux, available free for Mac and PC.