Avoiding Digital Eye Strain & Blue Light Exposure

Steps To Avoid Eye Strain Caused By Prolonged Screen Time

In our society, it seems impossible to escape staring at a screen for the majority of our waking hours. In fact, many jobs involve using a computer or touch screen during the work day. Much leisure time is spent watching television, playing video games, or browsing the internet on a backlit screen. Even the time in between these activities is often dominated by smartphones and tablets. This overwhelming amount of screen time and harmful blue light exposure (common in most backlit and LCD screens) has been known to cause eye fatigue, labeled digital eye strain, and is common in as many as 50%-90% of adults. Symptoms include sore, irritated, dry or watery eyes, blurred or double vision, light sensitivity, headaches and migraines. While this may seem inevitable if you work in front of a computer all day or find yourself attached to your phone, there are steps that you can take to reduce eye strain and avoid blue light overexposure.

Taking Breaks From Screens Throughout The Day

It may seem impossible to escape from screens during the work day when you work at a desk job, but there are certain practices that you can implement in your day that will reduce fatigue and protect your eye health. WebMD recommends following the 20-20-20 Rule: “every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.” This brief reprieve will allow you to collect your thoughts and focus deeper on the task at hand while lessening the chances of headaches or tearing affecting your ability to work. They also recommend a longer break of about 15 minutes after every 2 hours you spend on your devices, when possible. You can achieve this by taking a brief walk or even getting a drink of water, which is good for your health and will reduce risk of dry eye. You should also make sure that you are not sitting too close to your screen, maintaining a minimum of 25 inches of space between you and your monitor. All of these considerations will cut down on the fatigue and headaches caused by digital strain and will improve your quality of life.

Avoid Screen Time Before Bed

Studies show that using backlit screens before bed can universally cause eye fatigue as well as impaired sleep. The blue light from phones, tablets, televisions and computer screens stimulate the brain, tricking your body into thinking that it is still daytime, disrupting your circadian rhythm and making it difficult to transition into a deep sleep state. Giving yourself at least a 30-60 minute window of screen-free time before bed will give your eyes a rest and ensure that you have quality sleep, which will help your eyes recover overnight.

Try Blue-Light Blocking Glasses

As previously mentioned, blue light rays from computer screens and handheld devices can disrupt your brain functions, but they also accentuate any eye fatigue you may experience while working in front of a screen all day. Blue-light blocking glasses have emerged as a popular trend due to their inconspicuous lenses, often appearing clear instead of the murky yellow hues of earlier models in the 1990’s. Try a pair of these glasses at your office job or during leisure time to lessen the detrimental effects of blue light on your eyes. Talk to your local eyewear professional to learn more and see if you can find the right fit on your new pair of eyeglasses.

Apps & Programs to Reduce Blue Light Exposure

When you must use your device at night or during a late evening at work, there are different online tools that you can use to limit the damage and negative effects. You can change the settings or install programs on your work or home computer that either permanently change the blue light balance or set a timer to filter out the blue light at the same time each day. You can set Apple devices to Night Shift mode, which warms the hues on the screen and reduces how much blue light is displayed. Amazon Kindle tablets come with a built in feature called “Blue Shade”, which dramatically warms the display to be easier on the eyes and allow you to read a bit before bed without waking anyone else in the room. There are a number of apps from the Google Play Store including Twilight and Night Owl Screen Dimmer that can make your Android phone a more viable option when you simply need to use it in the evening.

Avoiding screens altogether is still your best option, but these programs and apps, paired with blue-light blocking glasses and scheduled screen breaks, are a reasonable alternative when you are trying to limit your blue light exposure in a realistic and practical manner.

Sources Cited: Harvard Health Publishing, WebMD, Digital Information World

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