Seven ways to avoid eyestrain.
The rapid advance of technology over the past two decades has meant that many of us spend a considerable portion of the day staring at screens, whether that’s our smartphone or our office computer. As a result, studies have shown that between 50% and 90% of office workers have eyestrain or associated health issues such as eye-twitching, red eyes, headaches and fatigue. So, how can you make things easier on your eyes?
- Get regular eye tests
If you work on a computer every day, experts recommend having a comprehensive eye exam every year to detect problems before they develop. During this test, you should tell the doctor how often you use your phone and your computer. You should also measure the distance from your eyes to your screen at work and tell your doctor, so your eyes can be tested at that distance.
- Give your eyes space
The closer your phone/computer screen is to your eyes, the harder they have to work to focus. Studies on computer-related eyestrain suggest that screens should be no closer than 40cm (16in) from your face. If this makes it hard for you to read, consider increasing the size of the text, rather than moving the screen closer.
- Take breaks
This may not always be practical if you have a hectic job, but it’s important to try to take regular breaks from staring directly at a screen, to give your eyes a chance to rest and rehydrate. While surveys have shown that many office workers take no more than half an hour a day away from their computer, it’s recommended that you take a 15-minute break after every two hours spent at your screen. If this isn’t possible, a study has shown that levels of eyestrain are much reduced when workers take at least four five-minute breaks a day, on top of a half-hour lunch break away from their computer.
- Reduce glare
Glare is one of the biggest causes of screen-related eyestrain. You can negate it by ensuring that you are using your phone or computer in a room where the lighting is bright enough. If your device is consistently brighter than your surroundings, this will lead to eyestrain and fatigue. Something else that can help is an anti-glare screen filter on your monitor or phone. If you wear glasses, some experts recommend buying lenses with anti-reflective coatings. This reduces the glare your eyes are exposed to by minimising the quantity of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces.
- Exercise your eyes
Staring at a screen continuously for hours on end causes focusing fatigue. To avoid this, many eye experts recommend the “20-20-20 rule” – looking away from your phone/computer screen every 20 minutes and focusing on an object at least 20ft away for at least 20 seconds. The science behind this trick is that looking at objects at a distance relaxes the focusing muscle in the eye, helping to reduce fatigue.
We don’trealise it, but our eyes blink differently and less frequently when we are staring at our phone or computer screen. Normally, we blink about 15 times a minute, but this drops by a third while we are looking at screens – and the blinks that do occur are typically partial blinks, meaning that during the blink phase the upper lid doesn’t come all the way down. This reduced blinking ability makes it difficult for the eyeball to remain moist, since the tears coating the eye evaporate more rapidly. If you find you have dry eyes as a result of excessive screen use, experts recommend either using artificial tears to refresh your eyes or resetting your natural blink frequency through an exercise where you blink slowly 10 times, as if shutting your eyes for sleep, every 20 minutes.
- Make your screen more eye-friendly
You can take steps to make your screen easier on your eyes, such as making the text larger, increasing your device’s refresh rate to ensure less flickering of the screen, and shifting the screen’s colour levels away from the blue end of the spectrum and towards the softer yellow end. This is important, because the retina contains blue-light-sensitive molecules; some studies have suggested that constant intense exposure to blue light can damage the retina.