Eye strain probably isn’t in your top 10 favorite things to think about. It’s not sexy, trendy, or particularly exciting—we get it! That said, we’ve all experienced headaches, blurry vision, and irritated eyes caused by overexposure to screens.
Medical professionals call it “Computer Vision Syndrome” (CVS) but we’ll call it what it is: eye strain from screen time. When it crops up, the best you can do is pop a couple ibuprofens and pray for the best. As with many health conditions, the best way to put a stop to visual fatigue is by preventing it with healthier practices.
Don’t worry, we’re not going to suggest that you quit your desk job, toss your phone in a river and swear off screen time forever. Like awkward Tinder dates and Instagram influencers, extended screen exposure is an unfortunate reality of this ultra-digital day and age. Our devices might strain our eyes, but they also keep us connected, productive, informed and entertained.
The average American spends as much as 10 hours per day in front of a screen. In fact, you’re probably reading these very words on a mobile phone or computer monitor. Here’s how you can balance all that screen time while minimizing eye strain and protecting your visual health.
Follow The 20-20-20 Rule
We’re not usually huge fans of following the rules, but optometrist Dr. Jeffrey Anshel’s 20-20-20 Rule is a wonderful trick for preventing eye strain, so we’ll let this one slide. In any case, you can consider the 20-20-20 “rule” as a helpful guideline more than anything.
The 20-20-20 rule incorporates safety micro breaks into the workday. When in front of a screen, it recommends taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look at something at least 20 feet away--hence the method’s name.
Of course, it’s unlikely that your eyes are going to remind you when they need a break—you might need to enlist a little help on that front. Thankfully, there are plenty of mobile and desktop apps designed to conveniently notify you when it’s time to take a breather.
Speaking of which, has it been more than 20 minutes since you started reading? Take a quick break and look away. Don’t worry; we’ll still be here when you get back!
Modify Lighting and Display Brightness
When it comes to the burden of extended screen exposure, adjusting your computer’s display brightness can really lighten the load. To maximize comfort and prevent fatigue, adjust your display’s backlight to match the lighting in the room where you’re working.
Most offices have a brightness of around 300-500 lux, which calls for a display brightness of around 100-150 cd/m2. If those numbers have your head spinning, here’s a quick trick: pull out a standard sheet of copy paper and match your computer’s display brightness to its color and intensity.
Of course, room brightness changes drastically throughout the day. Ideally, you’ll want to adjust your screen settings frequently enough to match. If manual modifications are too much of a headache, consider investing in a monitor display or mobile app that automatically adjusts screen brightness in accordance with external light.
Outside of adjusting your screen brightness, you’ll also want to consider re-working your home and office spaces to minimize optical fatigue. You don’t have to go full Feng Shui—small measures like maximizing natural light, replacing harsh fluorescent bulbs with non-fluorescent options, and moving your desk away from the direct glare of overhead fixtures will make your workspace easier on the eyes in more way than one.
If you’re feeling extra fancy, you may even polish off your desk space with an LED backlight which lessens harsh contrasts and adds visual comfort. Outside of providing a gentle ambient glow, backlights also add a clean futuristic touch to your workspace, which encourage productivity and might even boost your mood.
Adjust Screen Positioning, Colors, and Font Size
You wouldn’t buy a one-size-fits-all stiletto or drive a car without adjusting the seat and mirrors. Whether we’re talking Armani suits or safety belts, sizing and fit matter—the same goes for your desk setup and device settings.
Start off by customizing your device’s display. Default settings are often too bright, too harsh, and too high in color temperature. To lessen eye strain, lower your monitor’s color temperature. If you’re in front of a screen during the evening hours, activate the device’s blue light suppression mode in order to limit retinal damage and promote healthier sleep patterns.
When it comes to positioning, your computer screen should be approximately an arm’s length away from your eyes and situated just slightly below eye level. If you’re sitting at a standard-height desk, you may need to raise your monitor slightly. Don’t worry: a stack of unused hardback books will work just fine, and let’s face it, you’re probably never going to read that copy of Moby Dick, anyway.
Blue Light Glasses
As with light waves and lap dogs, it’s the smaller ones that are most prepared to inflict serious damage. Blue light, for example has an especially short wavelength and high energy concentration. When they hit your eyes’ retinal molecules, blue light waves cause an uncontrollable surge of chemicals that could be toxic to the light-sensitive cells in your retinas. Translation: extended blue light exposure is guaranteed to cause dry eyes, blurry vision, sleep disruption, and—you guessed it—eye strain.
The problem? Our device screens emit hearty doses of blue light that our bodies just aren’t equipped to handle. Our computer screens, TVs, mobile phones, tablets, and e-readers are continually blasting blue light even when they’re set to “night mode” or warm color schemes.
Thankfully, blue light glasses block out these damaging light waves. Invented originally by NASA, blue light blocking technology filters harmful blue rays, drastically reducing the amount which passes through the lens. The result? A pair of glasses that guards your eyes while promoting vision clarity and reducing eye strain.
The best part? WearMe Pro’s full collection of blue light glasses offer a range of ultra-trendy and vintage-inspired styles that are equal parts practical and fashionable.
Take Breaks and Blink Often
The average person blinks around 18 times per minute. Throw a screen into the mix, though, and your average blinks per minute get slashed in half. Unless you’re trying to win a staring contest via Zoom, that’s pretty bad news. Why? A lower blink rate prevents your tear film from properly renewing, causing your eyes to become dry, irritated, and strained.
The solution may sound silly, but it’s backed by ophthalmologists around the world: blink more frequently when looking at screens. For some, remembering to blink often is easier said than done—after all, it’s not exactly something we’re accustomed to thinking about.
As a safeguard, schedule micro-breaks into your day that give your eyes a much-needed breather from harsh screen light. If possible, strategically organize your in-person meetings and screenless work tasks to break up consecutive hours in front of the monitor.
Most importantly, your designated work breaks should be exactly that—a break. Rather than using your lunch to check Reddit or scroll through Instagram, put your phone away, get away from your desk, and score a few refreshing moments away from the screen.
Trust us; your eyes will thank you later.