Eye strain. Have you experienced that before? I’m sure you have, but first just to make sure, let me give you a reality check. If you have not realised, we spend majority of our days staring at a screen! From the minute we wake up, the first thing we do is check our phones because someone, just anyone might you know end up texting us overnight even though most of Singapore should be asleep but you know, just in case? And right after that it is staring at our computer screens from 9am to 6pm or even later if your work requires you to use the computer. And after that, to “relax”, we would check our phones again, or play an online game, or Netflix and chill, or watch YouTube, etc. – but all still looking at a screen!
It is no wonder really that more and more children nowadays are wearing spectacles because they are brought up in this world of technology. When last time when I am bored I would turn to reading a book, nowadays when children are bored, they want to watch a show or play games on their phone (because yes, at such a young age, they already have a phone!)
But all this puts a strain on our eyes! So how can we minimize this eye strain?
Use proper lighting
First and foremost, eye strain is often caused by excessively bright light either from outdoor sunlight coming in through a window or from harsh interior lighting. Bright lighting and too much glare can strain your eyes and make it difficult to see objects on your monitor.
When you use a computer, your ambient lighting should be about half as bright as that typically found in most offices. Eliminate exterior light by closing drapes, shades or blinds. If possible, position your computer screen so windows are to the side, instead of in front or behind it.
The worst problems are generally from sources above or behind you, including fluorescent lighting and sunlight. Consider turning off some or all of the overhead lights. Reduce interior lighting by using fewer light bulbs or fluorescent tubes, or use lower intensity bulbs and tubes. If possible, use floor lamps that provide indirect “soft white” LED lighting instead. Sometimes switching to “full spectrum” fluorescent lighting that more closely approximates the light spectrum emitted by sunlight can be more comforting for computer work than regular fluorescent tubes. But even full spectrum lighting can cause discomfort if it’s too bright.
When watching television, it may be easier on your eyes if you keep the room softly lit.
When reading printed materials or doing close work, try to position the light source behind you and direct the light onto your page or task. If you’re reading at a desk, use a shaded light positioned in front of you. The shade will keep light from shining directly into your eyes.
If you need light for writing or reading, use an adjustable desk lamp. Close blinds or shades, and avoid placing your monitor directly in front of a window or white wall. Place an anti-glare cover over the screen.
Glare from light reflecting off walls and finished surfaces, as well as reflections on your computer screen also can cause computer eye strain. Consider installing an anti-glare screen on your display and, if possible, paint bright white walls a darker color with a matte finish.
If you wear glasses, purchase lenses with anti-reflective (AR) coating. AR coating reduces glare by minimizing the amount of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of your eyeglass lenses.
Adjust your monitor
Position your monitor directly in front of you about an arm’s length away so that the top of the screen is at or just below eye level. It helps to have a chair you can adjust too. This will help to reduce eye strain as well.
Adjust your screen settings
Enlarge the type for easier reading. And adjust the contrast and brightness to a level that’s comfortable for you.
Adjusting the display settings of your computer can help reduce eye strain and fatigue. Generally, these adjustments are beneficial:
- Brightness: Adjust the brightness of the display so it’s approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding workstation. As a test, look at the white background of this Web page. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it may be too dark.
- Text size and contrast: Adjust the text size and contrast for comfort, especially when reading or composing long documents. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.
- Color temperature: This is a technical term used to describe the spectrum of visible light emitted by a color display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light that is associated with more eye strain than longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. Reducing the color temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted by a color display for better long-term viewing comfort.
Improve the air quality of your space
The air quality in the environment that you use a computer in can play a role in eyestrain and dryness. Use a humidifier to increase the amount of moisture in the air. If necessary, move away from fans and vents that blow air toward your eyes and face.
Also, avoid smoking or being exposed to second-hand smoke that can irritate your eyes.
Take eye breaks
When doing close work, take occasional breaks and rest your eyes by looking away from the digital screen.
These breaks don’t have to be for long periods of time. Every hour or two, take a few minutes to stand up, move about, go for a short walk (even if it’s to the bathroom or around your house), and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders to reduce tension and muscle fatigue.
Blink often to refresh your eyes
When staring at a screen, people blink less frequently — only about one-third as often as they normally do — and many blinks performed during computer work are only partial lid closures, according to studies.
Blinking is very important when working at a computer as it produces tears that moisten and refresh your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation. Try to make it a habit to blink more often when looking at a monitor.
In addition, tears coating the eye evaporate more rapidly during long non-blinking phases and this can cause dry eyes. Also, the air in many office environments is dry, which can increase how quickly your tears evaporate, placing you at greater risk for dry eye problems.
To reduce your risk of dry eyes during computer use, try this exercise: Every 20 minutes, blink 10 times by closing your eyes as if falling asleep (very slowly). This will help rewet your eyes.
Exercise your eyes
Another cause of computer eye strain is focusing fatigue. To reduce your risk of tiring your eyes by constantly focusing on your screen, give your eyes a break by looking away from your monitor. For instance, throughout the day, try the 20-20-20 rule – look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds.
Another exercise is to look far away at an object for 10-15 seconds, then gaze at something up close for 10-15 seconds. Then look back at the distant object. Do this 10 times. This exercise reduces the risk of your eyes’ focusing ability to “lock up” (a condition called accommodative spasm) after prolonged computer work.
Both of these exercises will reduce your risk of computer eye strain. Also, remember to blink frequently during the exercises to reduce your risk of computer-related dry eye.
Use artificial tears.
Over-the-counter artificial tears can help prevent and relieve dry eyes. Use them even when your eyes feel fine to keep them well-lubricated and prevent a recurrence of symptoms.
Your doctor can suggest which eyedrops might be best for you. Lubricating drops that don’t contain preservatives can be used as often as you need. If the drops you’re using contain preservatives, don’t use them more than four times a day. Avoid eyedrops with a redness remover, as these may worsen dry eye symptoms.
Choose the right eyewear for you.
If you need glasses or contacts and work at a computer, consider investing in glasses or contact lenses designed specifically for computer work. Ask your optometrist about lens coatings and tints that might help too.
Dehydration can make chronic dry eye symptoms worse. And if you’re staring at a computer screen for an extended period of time on top of that, not drinking enough water can make your eyes feel even worse.
Stay hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water throughout each day.
Limit screen time.
I know I know, this is nearly impossible if your job requires you to work on your computer. But here’s the thing. While you cannot change the amount of work screen time, you can however change the amount of your “leisure” screen time!
So instead of taking a break from work by checking your phone, going onto YouTube or Netflix, etc., how about taking a break by doing a workout, going for a walk or run, cooking a meal, etc. Something, anything that does not require your eyes to move from one screen to another. Because let’s face it, that is just plain stupid.
So that’s all the tips I have for you to minimize eye strain! Which is your personal favourite?
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