Eye strain can be a regular occurrence especially when your job entails staring at a computer screen all day. Couple that with screen time at home (tv, gaming, etc.) and you’ve probably got some very tired eyes! Recently, the Vision Council found that 70% of working adults surveyed reported some kind of digital eye strain. That’s a lot of people suffering from something that can be easily prevented or alleviated.
Experts believe eye strain does not have long term vision consequences but anyone who has experienced the burning, sore sensations that eye strain can cause knows it’s a distracting problem and not something to ignore if you’re the type to spend a lot of time in front of a screen. Eye strain can manifest in many different ways. Symptoms can include:
- Dry eyes
- Watery eyes
- Sore/tired/burning eyes
- Difficulty focusing
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Blurring or double vision
Luckily, relieving eye strain is easy with just a few changes in your work routine. Here are a few easy ways you can help keep your eyes healthy:
Use the 20-20-20 rule
The idea here is that every 20 minutes, you take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet (or more) away from you. This is good for your eyes because it forces them to focus on something other than the computer screen and gives them a little bit of a workout while taking a break from the screen. You can apply this to your sitting habits as well by getting up and away from your desk every 20 minutes to walk 20 feet for 20 seconds or more. Not only is this good for your eyes and circulation but for your morale as well!
There are tons of web/mobile apps that can help you remember to keep your eyes healthy while at your screen. We can’t talk about them all but here are a few I would recommend:
-Workrave, is a handy little application (Windows and Linux) you can download for free onto your desktop. Totally customizable, Workrave pops up and prompts you for a “micro break” or a longer exercise break at time intervals you determine. The app will even suggest exercises for your eyes, back and shoulders to help keep you limber.
-EyeLeo reminds you to take a variety of breaks, much in the way Workrave does. EyeLeo will block your screen every hour, encouraging you to get up and stretch and work out those eyes. With the ‘strict’ mode you’re prevented from skipping your breaks ensuring you actually get up and away from your screen. The best park about EyeLeo is your exercises are demonstrated by an adorable leopard!
-Coffee Break is listed as a staff favorite in the Apple App store. With this app you set the times you want to take your breaks or let the app decide what’s best for you. A countdown clock with darken your screen, encouraging you to get up and take that break. Coffee break is for Mac or IOS devices.
-Awareness is a great app for people who don’t want an intrusive reminder to take a break. This app helps you become more aware of the time you’ve spent at your computer and uses the gentle sound of a Tibetan singing bowl to mark every hour of your continuous computer use. Awareness will never hinder the use of your computer and lets you take a break when you’re ready to take one.
Adjust your monitor and Lighting
Whenever possible place your monitor so that any bright light sources are off to the side at a right angle to your screen. Bright light coming from behind your monitor or from behind you will only make your screen harder to see and probably cause some squinting on your part. Turning off or diming overhead lights will help reduce annoying screen glare. Always adjust the brightness and contrast settings on your monitor. Lastly, make sure you can read what’s on your screen easily. Keep in mind your monitor should sit at an arm’s length from your seat. Adjust your preferences so text appears large enough that you don’t have to lean in or squint to read the text on your screen. You can always employ the Ctrl++ or Ctrl+- shortcuts to enlarge or reduce the size of what appears on your screen in a browser.
Gunnar or computer glasses are special purpose eye wear meant to optimize your eyesight when you’re looking at any digital screen like your computer, phone or television. The lenses are made with special anti-reflective coasting to reduce screen glare and come with a yellow tint to the lenses to increase contrast and readability. When it comes to anti-reflective coating, the newer the better. This special coating has been on the market for a while now but reports of peeling and smudging on older models can cause more problems than they solve. Because everyone’s vision is different, Gunnar glasses may or may not be the solution you were hoping for. Experts recommend using computer glasses as a last-ditch effort for reducing your eye strain after changing environmental and work habit related issues first.
Blinking and Eye Drops
Did you know your blink rate is reduced 2-3 times when you’re working at your computer? Making a conscious effort to blink more while at your screen can help keep your eyes lubricated and happy. Using artificial tears can help keep your eyes moist if you need a little more help.
In the end, eye strain is an incredibly common issue, but it doesn’t have to be. Simply getting in the habit of taking more breaks from the screen and optimizing your workstation can have a big effect on your vision and your morale. If you can get away from the screen, do it! Reducing your screen time is a surefire way to give your eyes a rest and improve your quality of life.