Work, Social and Netflix & Chill - Avoiding Digital Eye Strain

Over the past 4 months we’ve spent more time on our phones, TVs and computers than ever before.

The 3-way combo of working remotely via laptop, social interactions over Zoom and spending hours bingeing TV shows, means we’re all getting more than our fair share of screen time.

When you combine the influx of screen time with the shortage of natural light that comes with being stuck at home with, it’s no surprise that there has been a surge in people getting eye strain.

Digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome, occurs when the eyes are subjected to prolonged, uninterrupted screen time.

The symptoms of digital eye strain are most often temporary, but nonetheless uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Digital eye strain can cause a lot of drama that we really don’t need right now, such as headaches, dry eyes, or blurred vision.

The good news is that this is easily avoidable if you follow a few important rules…

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20-20-20 Rule

It's important to be mindful of eye strain when working on computers and give yourself regular breaks.

Incorporating some well-deserved breaks in your screen viewing can dramatically reduce the commonly experienced symptoms. 

Many opticians recommend the 20-20-20 rule. Specifically, for every 20 minutes you look at a screen, look away for 20 seconds at something that is 20 feet away. That way, you’re giving your eyes the regular breaks they need.

Gazing at an item in the distance gives the tiny muscles in the eye a much-needed break — think of it as the cool-down lap after running a mile.

Blink more

Each time we blink, our eyelids spread oils and mucous secretions across the surface of the eye which lubricates it and prevents it from drying out. Blinking also keeps our eyes safe from potentially damaging stimuli, such as bright lights and dust.

According to several optical studies, when looking at a screen we blink up to 70% less, and when we do blink, we don’t completely close our eyes. This means that tears don’t get the chance to cover the entire surface of the cornea. This can cause red, irritated, dry eyes.

To prevent this and to keep our eyes hydrated, try and be more conscious with your blinking throughout the day.

Get the right set-up and perfect your workstation

While working on your laptop seems like a good idea, it’s not really creating the best conditions for your back or eyes.

Go for a desk or table with a large enough screen (so you won’t have to squint), positioned at eye level, and more than 40 centimetres away.

Ideally, your desk should be in an airy room with a window and plenty of natural light. Position your screen in a place that will stop any sun rays from reflecting onto your screen.

If you need a bit of extra light, try a desk lamp with an LED bulb, as they’re more energy-efficient and provide softer, healthier light for your eyes.

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Stay hydrated

It may seem obvious but one of the most effective ways to avoid dry eyes is to drink more water. The more water you drink, the more comfortable your eyes should feel. 

If you are prone to spending long periods at your desk in intense concentration, try keeping a glass water by your side. This will serve as a reminder to stay hydrated, helping you drink more throughout the day.

Eat healthy

To keep your eyes healthy, a nutritious diet is important. This should include foods rich in omega-3, antioxidants and vitamin E.

Rich omega-3 foods include fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna. Those heavy in antioxidants include blueberries and artichokes as well as chocolate. Finally, you can get your vitamin E hit by eating whole-grain cereal, almonds, hazelnuts (as well as most other nuts) and spinach.

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Written by Matthew Sweeney, Co-Founder