Screen time and eye strainSES, 02 April 2021
How to monitor your monitor use
It’s the curse of the modern age, a plague of shining boxes upon all our houses (and our workplaces, our cafes, beaches and everywhere else we take our screens). But how do you avoid not just the mental fatigue but also the physical consequences of looking at screens for long periods of time? We’re sharing a few handy tips here…
Running the gauntlet of attention-grabbing, eye-straining screens each day can leave your vision blurry, your eyes sore, your head throbbing.
Why does eye strain occur? Focusing on a screen causes the ciliary muscles within the eye to contract. This changes the shape of the lens within the eye, allowing the retina to capture a focused image of what is being looked at. The ciliary muscles and other muscles in the eye socket keep everything turned in the right direction. Like any muscle that gets overused overuse of these eye muscles can lead to strain and potential harm.
These painful and irritating symptoms can be prevented or alleviated with a few simple techniques however.
First, get the positioning right.
How far away is the screen from you right now? Are you in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’? This distance is approximately 45 to 75cm from your eyes.
Laptops and phones are often held a lot closer so it pays to be aware of this when using these devices in more relaxed settings. If the screen is too close there’s a good chance you’ll be overworking the eye muscles tracking information. If it’s too far away you’ll be working too hard to make out details, leading to squinting and further risk of eye strain.
A monitor or laptop screen should be positioned either at eye level or slightly below it. If you’re looking up for extended periods you’ll increase the risk of dry eye and general eye fatigue. If you’re looking down posture-related health issues may arise.
Also make sure your screen is not directly in front of a window and that any glare or reflection from sunlight is minimal. In this way you can ensure there’s not too heavy a strain on your eyes, and that it’s not too light (remember, Goldilocks).
Research suggests that our blinking is often ‘incomplete’ when we look at a screen. Our lower and upper eyelids simply don’t connect properly.
Blink and you’ll miss it?
Did you know research shows you blink less when reading from a screen? Blinking is crucial to eye health. Each time you blink your eyelids use tear fluid to clear away dirt from the eye surface, keeping the cornea moist and your vision sharp.
When we look at the screen our rate of blinking decreases. It’s not just quantity – quality of blinking is diminished too. Research suggests that our blinking is often ‘incomplete’ when we look at a screen. Our lower and upper eyelids simply don’t connect properly. It’s why we recommend taking regular breaks from the screen and also taking the time to pause and close your eyes completely every now and then.
If you’re reading this slowly, look away now…
Staring at the screen for long periods of time will inevitably cause stress on your eyes. So if you’re planning on re-reading this article, and may be on this page for a long time, we’re suggesting you take a break.
The best way to stick to healthy screen viewing times is to remember the rule of 20-20-20. If you’ve been staring at the screen for 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds relaxing your eyes and looking at something at least 6 metres away (which happens to be 20 feet).
Go outside or do something that doesn’t involve a screen…
For many Kiwis the day is spent looking at a computer at work or school. This is followed up with plenty of additional time at home, where more and more entertainment (and extra work) is viewed on laptops, tablets, monitors and phones. So… leave the screen!
Getting outdoors is beneficial for eye health in a number of ways. Primarily it gives eyes the chance to look into the distance, to blink properly and to relax
This should go without saying, but sitting in front of screens all day and all night can obviously result in mental and physical health risks. Yet it can be difficult to resist the allure of all that pretty, stimulating information. Those with young families or teenage children will almost certainly know the struggle it can be to extract the glowing object of desire.
Getting outdoors is beneficial for eye health in a number of ways. Primarily it gives eyes the chance to look into the distance, to blink properly and to relax. With less pressure on the eyes there’s less chance of strain and the soreness, headaches and itchy, blurry and painful eyes that go with it.
This is particularly important for children. Evidence suggests overuse of screens and a lack of outdoor time can lead to permanent issues such as myopia/short-sightedness.