Looking at a computer, smartphone or any other digital screen for long periods of time can be tough on your eyes and lead to eye strain. The ongoing pandemic has increased the screen time. According to an Eyesafe Nielsen report, the average screen time per person rose 60%, to more than 13 hours a day, in March 2020 (cbsnews.com). Increased screen time can have a negative impact on the eyes and cause eye strain.
If you spend long hours a day using digital devices, you probably would notice some uncomfortable effects such as vision blurs, and eyes feeling achy, dry and tired. This is referred to as computer or digital-related eye strain by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Eye strain can affect people of all ages and has same symptoms that you may have when reading, writing or doing any “close work” like sewing for long stretches of time.
So, do we have to cut back on our screen time?
Not necessarily, but we may need to make few changes while using screens. Normally, people blink about 15-20 times a minute, which keeps the eyes from getting dry and irritated. Blinking tears are spread evenly over your eyes. Researchers have found that people blink less than half as often when they’re reading, watching, or playing on a screen. Other factors such as the contrast of text against the background, the glare, and flickering from digital screens can also strain the eyes.
Here are some eye-relaxing tips that you need to adopt if you are spending too much time on a digital screen or doing any other close work that requires long staring.
- Blink Your Eyes Often: The blink rate of humans is normally 15 times a minute. However, certain studies show that it decreases by about 50% to maybe 5 to 7 blinks a minute when using computers and other digital devices. To overcome the strain this can have on your eyes, blink them more often while you use digital screens. This will help your eyes get the moisture they need on the surface and prevent dryness.
- Follow the “20-20-20” Rule: For the prevention and management of computer eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule – take regular breaks looking at something that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen.
- Use a Matte Screen Filter: Today’s digital devices often have a lot of glare. To reduce the glare, use a matte screen filter. This filter is available for all types of computers, phones, and tablets.
- Take a Break Every 2 Hours: If you spend 2 hours on a digital screen, take a break of about 15 minutes after every 2 hours.
- Use Artificial Tears: Use artificial tears to refresh your eyes when they feel dry.
- Use a Humidifier: Consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air in a dry and warm room.
- Adjust Brightness and Contrast On Your Device: Adjusting screen brightness or the lighting in the room can reduce eye-strain. Make sure that your screen’s brightness matches the level of light around you and is not brighter than your surroundings.
- Adjust your Monitor: Make sure you position your monitor properly. The ideal position is about 25 inches or at arm’s length away from your face. The screen should be positioned in a way that your eyes gaze slightly downward, not straight ahead or up.
Symptoms of digital-related eye strain can also be alleviated by changing your workplace habits. If you wear a lens, then you might find dry eye an ongoing problem. Consider giving your eyes a break by wearing your glasses and don’t sleep in your contact lenses, even if they are labeled “extended wear” and follow good contact lens cleaning practices. Optometrists say that some people who use reading glasses may benefit from trying glasses with a different focal length for computer work (npr.org). Importantly, get your regular eye exam.
If you experience eye discomfort, headache or vision changes that don’t improve with these relaxing tips, consult your doctor.