September 30, 2013
The glasses you see pictured above are my newest toy. They are the ultimate biohack for visual performance and sleep.
My eyes weren't messed up to start with. I actually have 20/20 vision.
But I wanted even better visual performance.
So in this article, I'm not only going to teach you how I enhanced my vision with these glasses, but you're also going to discover exactly how to get a custom set of your own glasses that allow you to sleep better, while also improving hand-eye coordination, enhancing visual acuity, increasing mental performance and dramatically decreasing brain fog and eye fatigue.
How These Glasses Work
If you've ever purchased a set of tinted glasses or sunglasses, then you probably know that certain lens colors are useful for specific light conditions or activities. The image below gives great examples of both colors and uses of a variety of lens colors that you could potentially choose based on the specific conditions in which you most often find yourself.
However, visual performance goes far above and beyond simply using a specific color to filter your specific light conditions.
For example, in the article “The Last Resource You'll Ever Need To Get Better Sleep“, you learn how the blue light waves emitted by computer screens, televisions, smart phones, e-readers and other devices can dramatically disrupt your sleep quality – and even cause insomnia.
In addition, in the article “How To Increase Balance“, you learn about three critical components of your biology that affect your ability to move, to track objects, and to perform well. One of those components is your visual system. In that article, I describe how your visual balance system is comprised of sensory receptors in your retina called rods and cones. When light strikes the rods and cones, they send impulses to the brain that provide visual cues about how your head, body or limbs are oriented relative to other objects.
To protect and enhance performance of the visual system, I've recommended everything from apps that remind you to briefly stop working, or to focus your vision elsewhere (like Awareness, WorkRave, Time Out, and ProtectYourVision) to playing sports that require eye tracking to using a special kind of eye “workout” called “The Vision Gym”.
But I've also highly recommended special glasses that not only reduce eye glare, but also filter out blue light. These “blue light blocking” glasses can be purchased from sites such as Gunnar Optiks and LowBlueLights.com. While these sites certainly offer a decent solution, I recently decided I wanted to take things to the next level and actually get blue-light blocking, visual performance enhancing eyewear that was customized to my own unique pair of eyes.
After all, the color yellow cuts blue light rays, and allows for a high amount of visual perception around a wavelength of 550 nm (to which the human eye is very sensitive), but it doesn't necessarily enhance hand-eye coordination, reading speed, etc. It basically just reduces eye glare, and allows your body to have a little less natural melatonin suppression when you're staring at a screen for long periods of time at night.
As a biohacker who wants to figure out how to squeeze every last drop of value out of my body, I personally wanted the ultimate combination of visual performance and sleep enhancement. So I wasn't willing to settle for simply blocking blue light.
And this is where something called the “Irlen Method” fits in…
The Irlen Method
The Irlen Method is a research-based vision-enhancing method that uses colored overlays and filters to create custom eyeglasses. It was originally developed by a woman named Helen Irlen, who discovered and created this method in 1980 to improve perceptually-based reading and to to help overcome learning difficulties. Over 54 research papers have been published in peer-reviewed journals showing significant changes in reading rate, accuracy, and comprehension.
Basically, the Irlen Method is a non-invasive technology that uses colored overlays and filters to improve the brain's ability to process visual information. This technology can improve reading fluency, comfort, comprehension, attention, and concentration – while also reducing light sensitivity. It is simply a color-based technology that filters out offensive light waves, so the brain can accurately process visual information.
Traditionally, Irlen Method is used to help children and adults suffering from reading and learning problems, dyslexia, ADD, autism, headaches, migraines, light sensitivity and even traumatic brain injury…
…but when I heard about the technique at a biohacking conference, I decided to visit an Irlen specialist to test out whether the overlays and filters in a set of Irlen eyewear could help a guy who has 20/20 vision get even better visual performance, enhanced reading speed and increased hand-eye coordination.
Where To Get Your Own Custom Lenses
I began by visiting the Irlen website and contacting an Irlen screener and diagnostician in my area named Kirstie.
Kirstie just happened to be coming to Spokane two weeks later, so we set up a custom fitting and assessment process at a hotel near my house.
The assessment process is normally separated into two testing sessions, but we squeezed it all into one long 4 hour-ish session. The first part of the process is called the “Screening”. During the screening, I did a bunch of perceptual tasks to create an awareness of any visual distortions I was experiencing when reading. We checked for:
-Flow and fluency
-Ability to skim or speed read
-Error rate of reading
I did just fine, but had already warned Kirstie that she probably wouldn't find any issues with my reading and visual ability, as I am a trained musician, speed reader and tennis player.
So then we moved on to the next step – a “Tint Assessment”. During the tint assessment, we tried dozens of different colored lenses to create my own unique color. This was simply a test and re-test method of matching different lenses with pages, screens and reading charts to determine which set of lenses resulted in the ideal vision enhancing effect for me. We not only worked on finding a color that filtered out offending wave lengths of light that my eyes do not do well with, but we also matched it with an amber tint that would block the blue-light wave spectrum from screens.
In the end, we wound up with my unique lens color…
…which turned out to be kind a purplish-yellow, exactly like in the glasses in the image on the top of this post.
OK, OK – not exactly the sexiest, most manly tint on the face of the planet – but for the enormous difference in eye comfort and reading speed that I got with the lenses, I was incredibly happy.
I said goodbye to Kirstie, and set out for the next step – finding the ultimate pair of frames to send to her so that she could get my new custom colored lenses cut and fit to my exact frame specifications.
Enter ADS Sports Eyewear.
Where To Get Your Own Custom Frames
ADS Sports Eyewear is an optician owned and operated online company specializing in prescription sports sunglasses. They utilize the latest prescription technology called Free-Form Digital Surfacing, which allows for way more clarity in wraparound sports sunglass frames, and Lenticular Free-Form, which makes it possible to put stronger prescriptions in almost any prescription sunglasses without creating excessive thickness.
What all this means is that you can get distortion-free prescription vision in sports sunglasses, but you can get frames that don’t actually look like something your 80 year old Grandma would wear – like fashionable prescription Oakley sunglasses.
So I contacted Michael, the company’s marketing manager, and put him in touch with Kristie from Irlen so that we could figure out what type of frame would actually be compatible with my new set of Irlen lenses. It turned out that a matte black Oakley Crosshair 2.0 model did just the trick.
Next, I had the frames ordered and sent to Kirstie…
…then I simply sat back and waited like a kid waiting for Christmas morning.
Within 2 weeks, the special package arrived.
I excitedly unwrapped it. Inside, in a soft, jet black cloth were my brand new set of vision, performance and sleep enhancing eyewear. Not only do they fit like a glove, but compared to any other blue-light blocking glasses, sunglasses or other eyewear I've ever tried, these things are amazing.
When I wear them while working at night, I sleep better as soon as I go to bed.
When I wear them while tracking objects, such as reading music or tracking a tennis ball, I see more clearly.
When I'm starting at a screen for a long period of time, I don't get eye fatigue.
I read faster. I comprehend more of what I'm reading. I don't get distracted while reading.
And while the entire process from start to finish was not exactly cheap (it was actually several hundred dollars once it was all said and done), this is a set of glasses I own for life. If they ever get destroyed or lost, Irlen still has all my custom lens info on file, so I can get another pair at a fraction of the cost.
So that's it. If you like to own nice things and you want better vision, performance and sleep, then getting a custom set of Irlen lenses is a no-brainer. Start by:
1) Contacting an Irlen screener and diagnostician in your area.
2) Getting 15% off of your prescription order of frames or sunglasses when you use the code BGFit at ADS Sports Eyewear.
Question, comments or feedback? Do have any “vision hacks” you've used to improve your vision, sleep, or mental acuity? Have you tried Irlen before, or Gunnar glasses, or anything else like this? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to reply!
24 thoughts on “The Ultimate Visual Biohack – How To Create Your Own Custom Set Of Vision, Performance and Sleep Enhancing Eyewear.”
Your readers may be interested to know of a place in the UK which can do a BPI Diamond Dye BPI #37604. Lenses need to be uncoated . (no antiscratch and no UV protection) .
ASDA (part of Walmart) did this for me, they used a company called TANT (you’ll have to tell ASDA this).
To do the tint I used SPECTRUM in Manchester 0161 203 9000, [email protected]o.uk, ask for Billy. They were great, really helpful. It took a long time to find them
It’ll cost about £7.50 recorded delivery to send a pair.
They’ll tint and return them for £30.00. You can send an old pair with a lens prescription and they will supply the lens as well.
You can do the same with PLAIN non prescription (plano lens) or visit them as they do sell frames as well. I think their price to supply frame and plain tinted glass is about £50.
Hi thanks for cool show…
Once upon a time you had a show with the guy from Lowbluelight.com. Am I mad or did this podcast disappear ? Cannot find hide nor hair of this specific show. How does the Irlen institute relate to other information from "low blue light.com" , was it Dr. Hansler ?
thank you TB
Hmm…I think you may be thinking of my interview with Dr. Jack Kruse perhaps? https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2013/12/build…
Also, regarding the Irlen institute, it falls right in line with this info…my Irlens have an amber layer overlay that blocks blue light…I had to specifically ask for this though!
hey Ben thanks for response…So I actually live near Irlen institute, and would prefer buying one pair of glasses or the other……Irlen or Lowbluelight.com. so basically the same, in your opinion? Thanks again for response.
ps the "Lowbluelight.com" guy is definitely called Dr. Hansler, but as stated, this podcast has seemingly vanished
Sorry to go back to basics, but for us that can’t spend that currently and still want the benefits of blocking as much blue light out as possible, would using the yellow/orange lenses out of a lens set from a pair of sports sunglasses (Oakley/Rudy project) be useful? Or would you at least need to invest in the Gunar glasses to receive any benefit? I see the added benefits of the fitting and custom pair you received but am hoping to add any benefit as I’m on computers all day but especially at night to finish up all my work.
I'd go with the Gunnars, or I'd also surf over to this Low Blue Light website: http://goo.gl/FwXHY
Hi Ben – do you know how much blue light the Gunnars block? On their site they write "reduce" blue light – and from their tint it would seem that they would probably not block blue light fully?
I would think to truly block all blue light they would have to wrap around your face and seal tightly against your cheeks – like ski goggles. I'm sure you could get those… if you don't mind looking like a weirdo… but I doubt the benefit would be tangible.
Thanks for your answer Ben! I was thinking more in terms of the glass itself – since most/all glasses that I have seen that block all blue light are orange and when Gunnars state "reduce" instead of "block" AND they are more yellowish I'm thinking they may not block totally..
See this chart from another brand: http://www.bluelightprotect.com/images/bluelightp…
I've never seen a chart like that from Gunnar. Shoot them an email and see what they say (they have great customer support). And, if you find out, come back and share it with all of us!
Received an email from Gunnar – they say their glasses block approx. 85% of the blue light..
Not bad! Thanks for letting me know.
Can you provide quantifiable metrics comparing your performance (e.g. reading speed, comprehension, etc.) with and without the glasses, so that we might get an idea of the magnitude of any benefits, and that your positive subjective assessment is not due to the post hoc, sunk costs' rationalization- or other- cognitive biases?
Financial disclosure: did you get any special discounts, or financially beneficial agreements with the manufacturer, in exchange for endorsing this product (e.g. kick-backs if fans use your promotion code)?
Much of this is qualitative. You would have to go through the Irlen fitting to see what I mean. You look at one page with one color, then read, perceive, etc. and move on to the next color, then gauge your comfort, perceived feelings, etc. I'm in the process of trying to determine how to more exactly time reading speed but I can tell you from a sleep quality and eye strain standpoint, wearing these glasses is like night and day (literally!).
No kickbacks. Paid for this whole thing out of pocket with the one exception that I got the actual Oakley frames comped as long as write up a review later on of how they perform in sports. My personal expenses were about $700 for this hack.
I know there’s software to test & allegely improve one’s reading speed & comprehension rates, so it should be possible to conduct an experiment on yourself to see if there is any consistent, demonstrable improvement with the glasses, consistent with your stated subjective assessment.
Researching/trying speed reading methods/software has been on my “to do” list. Actually, I think you should do a podcast on speed reading specifically, or as one type of cognitive training/enhancement, generally.
I’ve personally been doing the Lumosity coginitive training games for a few months, which one could use to test various factors’ (supplements, sleep, exercise, magic glasses, etc.) influence on various components of cognitive performance (e.g. processing speed, memory, flexibility). I’ve definately noticed signficant variations within- & between- days on the same games, though I haven’t attempted to systematically investigate this (e.g. why can’t I come close to scores I got yesterday, or 6 hrs. ago). If you do this, I highly recommend you take an independent IQ test before starting & again weeks/months later to see if your higher Lumosity scores correlate w/ higher scores on independent tests, as their scientists claim.
Like you, I’d be fascinated to know what are the known/alleged/quantified upper limits for various cognitive improvements, what interventions (training, drugs, supplements) can produce what results, what is the ultimate brain-hacking regime, and how could we best track/quantify our interventions/results to know what’s working & how much.
I've actually been trying to get Jim Kwik on my podcast to discuss speed reading. It's pretty fascinating stuff. As a matter of fact, most of his stuff is…good other suggests here too. I'll look into this stuff!