Company News

Local Duo Launches Glasses Company to Improve Sleep

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – New glasses developed by a local sleep expert aim to reduce the impact of electronic-device screens by filtering out harmful wavelengths.

Bluwinx, a company cofounded by Joe Petrolla, launched about a month ago after about 18 months working to develop the lenses.

“It’s a patented chemical-infused process. We worked with a U.S.-based company to find a way to infuse the lens,” Petrolla explains. “A lot of cheaper glasses don’t filter the right type of blue light. It’s [a wavelength of] about 460 nanometers that causes your body to produce melatonin and that’s about the range coming off electronic devices.”

The company offers prescription lenses, readers and “planos,” or lenses that don’t help with vision but still filter the blue wavelengths of light. Petrolla also works as director of the Southwoods Sleep Center.

“Our bodies work on a circadian rhythm, about a 24-hour clock. That’s influenced by daylight. Prior to these electronic devices, people went to bed when it was dark and got up when it was light,” Petrolla explains. “When you’re staring at a screen, it fools the brain because the light coming off that is the same as sunlight.”

Through a chemical coating applied to the lenses, Bluwinx glasses filter out those blue wavelengths of light, he continues, noting that it also helps reduce eye strain from looking at screens for long periods of time. Most adults spend a large portion of their day, especially if they’re working in offices, looking at screens, which can also cause eye strain.

A lack of sleep has a large impact on Americans. An estimated 40% don’t get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep and, according to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, 30% sleep fewer than six hours. Inadequate sleep costs U.S. employers roughly $31 billion, or about $2,000 per employee in lost productivity. The impact on children, Petrolla says, is just as great.

“Kids are getting less sleep because they’re on these devices and it alters their circadian rhythms. They have a hard time getting up. If you don’t get the right amount of sleep as a kid, we can see as much as a whole letter grade drop,” he says.

The lenses are made in the Mahoning Valley, Petrolla and fellow cofounder Ed Kiernan say and fitted into brand-name frames, including those from Steve Madden, BCBG and StyleWise. Kiernan adds that Bluwinx is in talks to use Prada and Ray-Ban frames, as well. Bluwinx offers about 1,300 styles of lenses for men, women and children.

“The others are using generic frames, while we’re going to have luxury lifestyle frames that no one else is offering,” Kiernan says. “We knew we had the product, we built the e-commerce engine and then we went out and created a product that was higher in price in but unlike anything else you can get.”

Beyond fashion sense, Bluwinx glasses can help deal with sleep disorders because they don’t require any alterations in behavior, Petrolla says. That especially makes it easier for children to adopt, Kiernan says, noting that both of his children – ages 5 and 14 – use the glasses.

“It was really easy for the young kids to adopt it. My 14-year-old was a harder sell, but once we talked about the dangers of what it was doing and the problems that could occur, he started wearing them to,” he says.

Adds Petrolla: “Most of the time, doctors have a hard time getting people compliant. We wanted something that didn’t require behavior modification. You just have to put a pair of glasses on.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.