A recent study found that the average office worker spends 1,700 hours per year in front of a computer screen. And that doesn’t even include personal time spent on phones and other digital devices.
All of this screen time has led to an increase in complaints related to eye strain, dry eye, headaches, and insomnia. During Workplace Eye Wellness Month in March, Safe Vision Texas and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are offering tips related to screen time and eye sight.
Why does computer use strain the eyes more than reading print material? It is primarily due to the fact that people tend to blink less while using computers. Focusing the eyes on computer screens or other digital displays has been shown to reduce a person’s blink rate by a third to a half, which tends to dry out the eyes. We also tend to view digital devices at less than the ideal distances or angles.
How do we address these issues related to digital use? You don’t need to purchase expensive computer glasses for relief. In fact, a study published recently concluded that blue light filters are no more effective at reducing the symptoms of digital eye strain than a neutral filter. Instead, try altering your environment with these simple tips:
- Keep your distance: The eyes actually have to work harder to see close up than far away. Try keeping the monitor or screen at arm’s length, about 25 inches away. Position the screen so your eye gaze is slightly downward.
- Reduce glare: Glass screens can produce glare that can aggravate the eye. Try using a matte screen filter.
- Adjust lighting: If a screen is much brighter than the surrounding light, your eyes have to work harder to see. Adjust your room lighting and try increasing the contrast on your screen to reduce eye strain.
- Give your eyes a break: Remember to blink and follow the 20-20-20 rule. Take a break every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Looking into the distance allows your eyes to relax.
- Keep eyes moist: Keep artificial tears at hand to help lubricate your eyes when they feel dry. Consider using a desktop humidifier. Office buildings have humidity-controlled environments that suck moisture out of the air. In winter, heaters on high can further dry your eyes.
- Stop using devices before bed: There is evidence that blue light may affect the body’s circadian rhythm, our natural wake and sleep cycle. During the day, blue light wakes us up and stimulates us. So, too much blue light exposure late at night from your phone or other devices may make it harder to get to sleep. Limit screen time one to two hours before bedtime. Use nighttime settings on devices and computers that minimize blue light exposure.
Those experiencing consistently dry red eyes or eye pain should visit an ophthalmologist, a physician specializing in medical and surgical eye care.