Staring at a screen for an extensive amount of time can cause many problems for the eyes including eye strain and dry eye symptoms. However, a lot of us do not have a choice as many office jobs require sitting long hours in front of a computer. The problem pertains as COVID-19 forced a lot of people into remote work and students into studying and doing school activities online. This leaves little room for eye rest and activities that does not include staring at a screen. As someone who has bad vision, works remotely and stares at a screen at least eight hours a day, here are some of my personal tips on relieving eye strain and maintaining eye health.
1. Get an eye exam.
If you feel extreme, persistent eye strain and other symptoms such as headache or nausea, it is very likely that you need prescription glasses to correct your vision, or if you already have glasses, your prescription might have changed. Find an eye doctor near you (if you don’t already have one) and schedule an appointment ASAP. Your vision would only get worse without being prescribed correctly. Besides, it is advisable to have a comprehensive eye exam annually to prevent vision problems.
2. Add blue light filter.
This one is a life saver. My eye strain has significantly improved since I added blue light block on my glasses. Besides causing eye strain and other eye symptoms when being exposed to our eyes for too long, blue light can also affect your sleep as it reduces body’s natural melatonin, a substance that helps you fall asleep.
If you are not wearing glasses, you can order blue light blocking glasses to wear while working at a screen. It’s also a coating you can add to your prescription glasses. If you want to go further in protecting your vision, you can also set “blue light filter” mode on your phone, tablet or computer through apps or on your phone settings (iPhone).
General instructions on blue light filter settings:
- For phones: https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-use-blue-light-filter-phone/
- For computers: https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/how-to-use-a-blue-light-filter-on-pc-mac/
3. Watch lighting levels.
The key to proper lighting when working with a screen is that your screen should not be brighter than the lights around you, as your eyes must work harder to adjust which causes eye strain. Change screen brightness to match your surrounding light.
External lighting is also a factor that may make eyes overwork and causes strain over time. Eliminate excessive exterior light by closing blinds or lower intensity of light bulbs in the workplace.
4. Maintain eye moisture.
One of the easiest ways to reduce dry eye symptoms is using artificial tears. Extended time in front of screens and drain your eyes and make them feel dry. There are two kinds of artificial tears that can be used to keep eyes moist:
- Eyedrops with preservatives contains chemicals that prevent growth of bacteria. Preservatives may irritate your eyes especially if you have severe dry eyes.
- Preservative-free eyedrops: if you need to apply artificial tears more than four times a day, it is recommended to use preservative-free drops as they have fewer additives.
5. Try the 20-20-20 rule.
The 20-20-20 rule was created to maintain a balanced amount of time between working and resting for the eyes. Take a break every 20 minutes and look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Looking into a distance helps eyes relax as well as reduce back-to-back screen time.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that humans blink around 15 times per minute, but the number decreases by half or third when we’re using a digital device. Blinking is the natural way of getting surface moisture for the eye. If you can make a conscious effort to blink, it would help your eyes a lot!
7. Take frequent breaks.
Taking frequent breaks during the day will not only give your eyes time to recover, but also reduce shoulder, neck, and back pain from sitting in one position too long. These don’t have to be long breaks. Every hour or two, make sure to take a few minutes to get up, get away from the screen, walk around, drink some water, and stretch.
The tips above do not cost a lot of money or time. With just some effort and time out of your day, you could do so much better in reducing eye strain symptoms and protecting your overall eye health.