Like many of you, I am a mom. Last month, I became the mom of a teenager. Many moms of teens will tell you that the hormonal mayhem starts before they turn 13 and that is true. But in our house, what looked like very typical hormonal moodiness was something else… and we were able to stop it!
Our son looked like any other typical pre-teen: getting upset with something often lingered and could include a lot of whining. It really wasn’t anything severe. We had heard of all of this before and knew it came with the age.
I never stopped to think about HOW MANY of my clients blow things like this off because “everyone does this” or even more firmly when “everyone in my family does/has this”. It’s not even considered a symptom of a problem, it’s just “the way it is”.
That was exactly how we felt about our son’s moodiness and whiny upset when there was an issue. Until we saw a doctor board-certified in both neurology and psychiatry. The doctor wanted us to do a handful of tests that had to be scheduled and said “In the meantime–I want you to try something: I want you to get a pair of these glasses and have him wear them.” He handed us an information sheet for a pair of glasses that was about $100. Ugh… seriously?
I looked at the information sheet and found that they were blue-spectrum light blocking glasses. I searched the internet and found a range of brands and prices. Most of the glasses had a yellow-orange lens. I thought “Great… so he’s going to look like a freak… and it’s going to cost me a lot of money… wonderful.” Needless to say, I wasn’t running to get these glasses.
Given that most of what I found online talked about how blue-spectrum light emitted from screens affected people, I was even less motivated to run out and get these glasses. My son hadn’t played a video game in 11 months and at that point, his screen exposure at home was 3-4 hours PER WEEK. Yes, you read that right… 3-4 hours PER WEEK. The last thing I was worried about was blue-spectrum light when he had so little screen exposure.
But my husband happened to be in an electronics store and found what were labeled as “Gamer Glasses”. The lens was not colored at all. They looked kind of like the reading glasses you can buy at the drugstore. They were also only $30. He grabbed a pair for our son. (Here is the brand we got but ours had a slate blue arm on the sides)
My protocol in my work is to NEVER change more than one thing at a time. Aligned with that mentality, we had my son wear the glasses for a week and we changed NOTHING else. No additional screen time. No new supplements or medications. No change in routines or rules around the house.
But a week later, he was a different kid.
Within the week, those exaggerated upsets–whiny and lingering–were gone. GONE, people!!!! And at the 6th day, we went to a restaurant of my daughter’s choice for her birthday and the restaurant happened to have lots of TV screens in it. Although my son’s eyes were, as expected, pointed at the screens during dinner–he was still able to attend to the conversation at the table. AND he would intermittently look away from the screen to what was happening at the table. *jawdrop* WHO WAS THIS KID?
When we left the restaurant, my son was the FIRST to leave!! No dragging him from the screens.
This went on for weeks. We were so sold that when my son got new prescription glasses, we had a blue-spectrum light blocking film on them. He got his new glasses, put them on, and within a few hours–he was a hot mess. I couldn’t understand it. Then I remembered the literature that doctor had given me and the research I had half-heartedly done at that time. I remembered that there were different number ranges of blue-spectrum light. What if the cheap, “gamer glasses” were filtering a broader range of the blue-spectrum light than the filter the prescription eyeglass company used?
I advised my son to put the old glasses on. He wore them all afternoon. We ate dinner VERY late. As my husband and I were chatting about it, I noted that our kid with blood sugar dysregulation had been calm all afternoon including a period of time we’d have expected him to be grumpy because of blood sugar. He kept wearing the old glasses and I ultimately found a clip-on blue-spectrum blocker for his prescription glasses that appears to work.
I can’t find any literature about why this is working. At least not in a direct manner. I’ve found plenty about “cool light” affecting mood and cognition that loosely relate blue-spectrum light to poor mood or other things that could make someone uncomfortable and crabby; but nothing that very clearly relates the experience we were having. Hinting at it–yes. Spelling it out–no.
There is a TON of literature about how blue-light-emitting device use affects sleep and how that affects behavior and attention problems but there is very little that makes a concrete and clear path between blue-spectrum light (apparently in a specific range) and agitation in children that manifests in mood/behavior. The closest I can get deals specifically with the difference in pupillary light response in kids in the spectrum and separately, how this response can affect sensory functions. My work for the last (nearly) decade shows that this kind of whiny, lingering upset is common for kids with sensory issues. Of course, I didn’t see this in that light because what I saw was “just how preteens are”.
See? Even the specialist is human…
I will say this, friends: it’s worth buying the glasses. Even if your kid doesn’t have the whiny, moody, lingering upsets that were resolved in my household (or even if you have them and they aren’t resolved with blue-spectrum blocking glasses), you will be overwhelmed with an internet search on the countless problems with blue-spectrum light that could be affect you and/or your kids. Lots and lots of them that add up to who knows what. That’s how it is: sometimes I’m working with a family that implements an intervention and voila–things they attributed to personality quirks or thought were “just the way it was” happily disappear.
Try it out and let me know how it goes for you!