If you work in front of a computer and looking at your phone all day, you may notice that your eyes get tired, dry, or itchy. If you’re working from home you may be working longer hours, and we know staring at a screen for hours at a time can take a toll on your sight. You may worry that you’re permanently damaging your eyes, or you might wonder what you can do to deal with the discomfort.
If you’d like to know more about the relationship between your eyes and your computer, keep reading. You’ll learn how screens affect your vision and your health and what you can do to help and support your eyesight.
If your work involves heavy computer use, you may notice eye trouble. You’re not alone—at least 50 percent of those who work in front of a computer report eye issues, but the number may be closer to 90 percent. You may notice symptoms like:
- Blurry vision
- Dry, itchy, or red eyes
- Double vision
None of these symptoms are fun, and if they’re severe enough, the quality of your work may suffer. These symptoms are often called computer vision syndrome. Like carpal tunnel syndrome, the condition is caused by repetitive use: your eyes work hard to keep reading on a computer screen, and they get tired.
Just reading from a page for a long time can be hard for your eyes, with all the eye movement and close-up focus the task requires, and computers make the problem worse. The glare, flickers, and screen contrast on a computer screen require even more from your vision.
Additionally, when using computers, many people forget to blink. Usually we blink around 15 to 20 times per minute, but when reading a screen, we often blink only half that amount. All of that staring can dry out your eyes, which contributes to the irritation.
However, rest assured that you are probably not doing your eyes permanent damage. While computer vision syndrome may be unpleasant, if you take some time off from the computer, your eyes will get the rest they need and start feeling better again.
Healthy eye habits
If your eyes are struggling, you’ll need to make some changes. The most obvious change is to cut down on your screen use, especially in the hour or two before bedtime. However, if you work in front of a computer, you won’t be able to just quit your job. Try the solutions below.
Computer screens, your eyes, and your sleep habits
Viewing computer screens and mobile phones for hours can affect more than your eyes. Most screens are backlit with blue light, which can interfere with your sleep cycle. A Boston, Massachusetts group of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital did a study on the effects of reading on a tablet before bedtime versus reading a printed book before bed.
The group that read on a backlit device took ten minutes longer to fall asleep and didn’t sleep as deeply as the group that read printed pages. The researchers believe that the blue wavelengths electronic screens emit interfere with the production of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone. Consequently, those using screens don’t feel sleepy, so they stay up late and have trouble when they finally go to bed.
If you stay up late using a tablet or a computer, and then you don’t sleep well, you’ll only be contributing to your eyes’ dryness, strain, and discomfort, along with the other adverse effects of sleep deprivation.
Keep your distance
If your computer is too close to your face, your eyes will have to strain to stay focused. However, you don’t want your screen to be too far away either. Keep your monitor just below your eye level and about 20 to 28 inches away from your eyes. This is considered the optimal spot by researchers.
Get rid of glare
Extra glare on the computer screen makes your eyes work harder as they try to decipher the text. The biggest cause of glare is natural light coming through a window—you can either move your computer out of the light or close the blinds.
You may have extra glare if the overhead lights are too bright. See if your employer can install a dimmer switch or if you can only turn on some of the lights in the room. If nothing else, you can also get relief by using a glare filter on your computer screen.
Play with your settings
You may find your computer screen too bright or too dim for comfort, or maybe you have to work to read a tiny font. Just play with your settings—with a little experimentation, you may find a more comfortable option.
Take a break
You can’t get away from your computer, but your eyes still need time off. Use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from your computer at an object about 20 feet away. Look at that object for 20 seconds. This will give your eyes a chance to reset their focus.
If you’re having trouble with your eyes, check your screen use. You can keep your eyes comfortable by remembering to take care of them, and if symptoms continue seek guidance from your optician or eye doctor.