Is Digital Eye Strain Avoidable?
‘90s kids were continually told not to press their nose up to the TV because it would hurt their eyes. In the last fifteen years the use of cell phones, lightweight laptops, and tablets have made that sentiment impossible to put into practice. It’s estimated the average American spends anywhere from 7 hours (I think a lowball figure) up to 11 hours of screen time a day. Most jobs require at least five hours of screen time (often with fluorescent lights), in addition to screen time on one’s phone, and then watching entertainment on any device.
That’s not taking into account that it’s still impossible to escape a glowing screen on an airplane when it’s installed on the seat in front of you, gyms are surrounded with TVs and screens on equipment like treadmills. Screens and eyestrain associated with screentime is inescapable, but what can we do to manage the impact? This week one brand of eye drops (Artificial Tears) commonly used to alleviate dry eye and stress caused by screen time was recalled after several infections and one fatality. While eye drops aren't normally considered dangerous, but with the heightened amount of screen time are there preventative measures to reduce eye strain other than eye drops?
Many experts agree that the key source of digital eye strain isn't the blue light, but how we use our devices. When working on screens, there's a tendency to hold the device close to the face and it's been studied that humans blink less when looking at a screen. The most common theory to digital eye strain is that staring at high-contrast material without blinking leads to dry eyes and eventually teary eyes, achy eyes, headaches, and irritation. It's not really an option to not be online, what can we do?
The 20-20-20 Rule: While it may be harder to practice the 20-20-20 rule, the idea is to relax the eyes by taking more frequent breaks from staring at the screen. The 20-20-20 rules means to look at an object 20 feet away and blink 20 times every 20 minutes. Frequent mini-resets are thought to help relubricate the eye and let it refocus on a distant object instead staying hyperfocused on a computer screen for hours on end.
Other Eye Exercises:Some other small eye exercises peppered in through a long computer day can alleviate computer strain. One is giving yourself a quick eye massage. With eyes closed, gently massage the eyes with fingertips to alleviate aches. It is also helpful to create new and dynamic eye movements that allow them to focus off of the computer screen. Movements like figure-eights, eye rolling (for real), glancing, and up/down movements are all suggested to relieve digital strain.
What About Blue Light Glasses?Quality blue light glasses will block all or most blue light wavelengths, but blue light probably isn't the key reason our eyes hurt. There's a lot of fraud with clear lenses marketed to block blue light when the product wouldn't block a significant amount of blue light to make a difference. However, there is a reason to invest in quality blue light-blocking glasses. If blue light isn't the culprit of eye damage, a body of research shows its negative effects on sleep cycles and hormones like cortisol. Our eyes are naturally acclimated to absorbing blue light, but it's intended to start at sunrise to sunset. When we use devices and fluorescent lights long after dark, it becomes a sleep disrupter. Yellow and Orange lenses are the most effective, but should mainly be used to help modulate the circadian rhythm more than eyestrain.
*For quality blue light glasses to manage sleep hygiene use code Pendulum22 for 15% off on any Ra Optics purchase