The regular use of digital devices has seen a rapid increase over the past several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employees have been completing work virtually for employers since the beginning of the epidemic in January and the majority of schools have reopened either through hybrid or 100 percent virtual means. Last month was Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month and this month, while not a national observance, we’d like to raise awareness for healthy eyes at any age.
With so much time spent in front of a computer or smart device, we’ll likely see an increase in things like headaches, trouble sleeping and poor vision. It is important to take steps throughout the day to give the eyes a break. Blue light from devices can alter the body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it difficult to sleep, and staring at a screen can also lead to increased feelings of anxiety. Strain on the eyes means more headaches and can even lead to a change in prescription and the need for stronger eyeglasses or contacts.
Here are a few ways you can focus on the health of your eyes while continuing to adapt to an increase in digital device uses.
Take frequent breaks. A 5- to 10-minute break for every 50- to 60-minutes of screen time is time enough to give the eyes some time to recover from the strain of staring at a computer monitor or screen of some sort. Some eye care professionals recommend the 20/20/20 rule, which involves looking away for 20 seconds after 20 minutes of usage at something that is 20 feet away.
Consider the use of blue light glasses. These special glasses are a cost-effective way to block the harmful blue light that is emitted from smart devices. Too much of this light can affect sleep patterns, cause headaches and affect eyesight.
Never take work to bed. A dark room and a bright device can really cause the eyes some extra strain, but that’s not the only problem. With work and school so easily accessed from various devices, it can be hard to draw the line between “on” and “off.” Be sure to shut down at the same time each night and allow time to come down from the stimulation of working on a device before heading to bed.
Visit the eye doctor. Be sure that your prescription is up-to-date to decrease unnecessary strain on the eyes. Have an open conversation with your eye doctor about your increase in screen time and follow his or her advice for keeping your eyes as healthy as possible, even if that means more frequent visits.
Reduce overhead lighting to eliminate any glares on the screen. Try to keep the lighting source coming from the sides and work away from a sunlit window to reduce the glares that can cause eye strain.
Keep your screen about an arm’s length away. Try not to work too closely to your screen because this can also cause undue strain on the eyes. If you are having trouble reading or seeing what is on the screen, increase the text size or screen resolution to allow some distance between you and your computer.
Keep a bottle of eye lubricant close by. Eyes can quickly dry out when using devices because they affect how we blink. The longer we stare at a screen, the less we blink and the less we blink, the dryer the eyes become. Tears produced when we blink keep the eye protected from infection and without this natural lubrication we are more susceptible to damage to the eyes.