It is estimated that we spend approximately seven hours per day in front of our digital screens. This could include focusing on our monitors at work, gawking at our smartphones on the bus or watching television at home. Simply put, we spend a large chunk of our waking life straining our vision to consume content and complete tasks.
Although research has found that screens are altering our bodies and potentially our brains, too much screen time is producing tremendous discomfort, such as blurred vision, eye strain and even headaches. Plus, other research has discovered the more harmful long-term effects, like near-sightedness and macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness.
So, what’s the cause? Blue light exposure, says Liana Pavane, the digital wellness coach and founder of TTYL.
‘Tired eyes are a huge indication that you have tech fatigue or screen fatigue. If you’re noticing that your eyes are particularly sensitive and dry after a full day of working from home, this is likely due to blue light exposure from your screen,’ Pavane says.
Considering how much work you do in front of your computer or mobile device, it might seem like there is nothing you can do about it. But not quite!
Our step-by-step guide will show you how to fight screen fatigue with a wide variety of measures.
1. Adopt the 20-20-20 rule
Do you have an eye routine throughout the day? If not, it might be essential to incorporate the 20-20-20 rule into your workday: Every 20 minutes, look at something that is 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. When you are entrenched in your work, studies or virtual games, it can be hard to remember to employ this tactic. That said, perhaps you can put up a sign over your desk, or you can turn on the alarm on your phone to remind you of this strategy.
2. Use proper natural and artificial lighting
One of the best ways you can reduce computer eyestrain, or any discomfort from staring at a digital screen, is by using proper lighting. Whether you are working on your laptop or watching Netflix, there should be an appropriate level of lighting! This way, it can mitigate the high level of blue light exposure that is the chief cause of your eyestrain.
Here are some other light-related tips:
- Install an adjustable desk lamp next to your computer.
- Turn off overhead lighting, especially if it is fluorescent lighting.
- Eliminate exterior lighting by closing blinds or shades.
- Position your computer screen by the side of your windows, instead of in front of them.
3. Protect yourself from blue light
If blue light comes from every type of digital screen, how can you shield your eyes from it?
‘To protect your eyes, try purchasing blue light glasses or a blue light protector. These will help you in the short term.’ Pavane suggests.
4. Reduce the screen brightness on your devices
Lowering the brightness level on your screens can be of tremendous help. Pavane concurs: ‘Lowering your phone’s brightness and switching to black and white mode will be easier on your eyes.’
While having it too low can trigger the same type of strain, too much brightness can create more than eyestrain. You want to find a happy medium, and this is typically in the 50% range on your equipment.
5. Adjust your space
How and where you sit can matter a great deal when it comes to beating screen fatigue. So, for example, you can place your monitor in front of you at an arm’s length away and make the screen at eye level. A good office chair is also crucial for a healthy posture and rested eyes, so make sure to opt for ergonomic design and to also adjust its position from time to time.
6. Use eye drops
Dry eye is one of the main symptoms of screen fatigue. This is highly uncomfortable as it makes your eyes feel itchy and tired. Aside from reducing exposure to screens, you can always use over the counter eye drops to lubricate your eyes.
Also known as artificial tears, this product can ensure that your eyes are lubricated throughout the day, which can relieve the myriad of problems facing your eyes.
7. Take frequent breaks
Sure, it’s easier said than done, but taking frequent breaks is necessary if you want to overcome screen fatigue. While the 20-20-20 rule is perhaps one of the best ways to alleviate eyestrain, simply walking away from your screen can also relieve your eyes.
Ultimately, you can prevent this uncomfortable feeling by averting your eyes from the screen when you can. So, make sure you don’t spend eight hours looking at your computer monitor during the day only to spend another six hours binge-watching your favourite show at night.
Be sure to get enough sleep, too; plenty of rest is great for giving your eyes an extended break.
8. Blink more often
It is estimated that we blink between ten and 20 times per minute. Blinking is vitally important to our eye health. Unfortunately, we don’t pay enough attention to our blinking habits throughout the day.
For example, you might notice that you stop blinking for a good two minutes as you gaze hypnotically at your smartphone or your video game. This is bad news for your eyes.
What should you do? Try to blink more! You can achieve this by setting automatic reminders or using post-it notes at your desk, and, of course, by reducing your screen time.
9. Change your diet
Did you know your diet can play an important role in computer eyestrain?
Many eyestrain-related symptoms can be alleviated with natural products and adjustments to your diet. So, for instance, omega-3 supplements, flaxseeds, soybeans, and canola oil can be great for relieving eye strain. Drinking more water throughout the day can also do wonders for both your eyes and your health in general.
In the end, it is always a good idea to discuss this with your primary care physician or optometrist, who will likely recommend certain supplements for you.
10. Book a comprehensive eye exam
Finally, with or without screen fatigue, it is imperative that you can book a comprehensive eye exam every year. The health of your eyes should not be taken for granted.
An eye exam will also give your optometrist a chance to recommend you glasses or contact lenses that are prescribed for specific activities that cause eyestrain, primarily computer use. You can also ask for a new lens coating, tint, and blue blockers for your glasses.
So, if you wish to keep your eyes in good shape, be sure to visit your local optometrist each year to ensure everything is good.
Liana Pavane believes that the most effective mechanism to realistically treat tired eyes from staring at a computer screen all day at work are boundaries.
‘To truly help your eyes, you’ll want to create boundaries with your phone and other screens. Try your best not to check your phone right away when you wake up and put it in another room at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Throughout the day, take numerous (phone-free) breaks. Even setting a timer for every 20 minutes during your work sessions and staring at the wall for 30 seconds will help protect your eyes in the long run.’
Computer screens have only become a part of our daily routine for the last 20 years or so. We are now beginning to learn what can happen to our vision due to excessive screen time. Blurry vision, dry eyes, neck pain, headaches and dry eyes might be short-term symptoms of the ubiquitous computer eyestrain, but they could eventually lead to something malignant.
By implementing these tips into your daily life, you can ensure that your eyes remain in good shape, even if you’re staring at a screen for most of your day.
Do you have any other tips to reduce screen fatigue? Share them with us in the comments section below!