Smartphones are a wonderful resource, but more and more, adults and children are working at computers during the day and using their phones for extended periods of time during the evening. All this screen time can lead to dry eyes and eye strain. Luckily, eye doctors and researchers have studied screen use and identified common problems and their remedies.
Healthy Habits to Help Dry Eyes
We should blink every 5-10 seconds, approximately. Blinking releases a “tear film” that coats and soothes your eyes. But sometimes we forget to blink while we’re concentrating on a computer screen, which can dry your eyes, including the cornea. The cornea is the outermost layer of the eye and is important for focusing. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) suggests using lubricating eye drops and removing contact lenses at night to alleviate some of the symptoms of dry eyes. You can also drink more water to avoid dehydration or add a humidifier to the room in which you work on the computer, which will help keep the air moist.
Healthy Habits to Combat Eye Strain
The AAO recommends using the 20-20-20 rule to avoid eye strain. The 20-20-20 rule goes like this: look away from the screen every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away, and continue looking away for at least 20 seconds. This simple exercise helps to relax the muscles that focus the eye as well as the muscles that work to focus your vision. This is especially important in children, where excessive screen time can lead to increased nearsightedness.
Proper Lighting & Posture
Correct posture and screen positioning can reduce strain on your body and your eyes. A computer display should be at arm’s length and slightly below eye level; your chair and desk should allow you to sit straight and comfortably while you’re typing. Any ambient light in the room should be darker than the computer screen and be wary of any windows in the room – they shouldn’t be behind the computer, nor should they cause a glare on the screen.
High-energy blue light is ubiquitous in smartphone and computer screens. Studies have shown that blue light disrupts our natural sleep patterns, keeping us up at night. To combat the blue light, Apple’s computers and phones now offer the “night shift” setting, which will automatically shift your screens to warmer tones in the evening. Microsoft offers the “night light” setting, also available on many Android phones.
Blue light blocking filters like f.lux and Iris mini are alternative software options that will change the color palette of your screen. You can also find physical blue light blocking screen protectors to place right on top of your screen.
If you wear glasses, there are ways to integrate a blue light blocker into your everyday lenses. One option is to have a filter placed within the lens material; these can be clear or have a yellow hue, depending on the manufacturer. Another option is to have the front and back of your lenses treated with a blue light filter. Both options are available for prescription lenses, and both are available through our Optical Center.
Computer Display Adjustments
You can make your computer display easy on the eyes with a few simple changes (and a little science). Light temperature is measured in kelvin (K), with higher temperatures for blue light and lower temperatures for oranges and reds. WIRED magazine recommends setting screens to 6,500K during the day and 3,400K at night. Try this first, and then make adjustments according to the brightness of your room. And when you’re reading, make sure the text is large enough to easily see, and that the text contrasts from the background. Black text on a white or light yellow background is preferable.
To avoid eye strain when looking at a smartphone, just don’t hold the device too close. The screen brightness should be slightly brighter than your surroundings, but still easy to see. Although low power mode may save battery life, it’s not healthy to look at a dark screen for too long.
Lastly, remember that your eyesight changes. Even if you wear corrective lenses and your prescription remains the same, your eyesight can gradually change without you realizing it. The best way to manage this and to take control of your eye health is to have regular eye exams. Contact us for your next appointment.