Keeping your eyes safe while staring into your screen – seven tips

The use of digital gadgets has been steadily increasing over the years, drastically accelerating even more amid Covid-19. While businesses shut down globally and physical interaction was restricted, we’ve had to stay in touch with family and friends, study and work remotely – greatly increasing our screen time. While it’s great that this is possible due to digital technology, we do need to give ear to our eyes.

Human eyes are constantly working – helping us navigate life while awake and even while asleep (remember REM sleep?). Because of their vital function, it’s generally easy for us not to pay attention to them until something goes wrong (but isn’t that so with just about everything in life?). This article offers seven tips on how to avoid straining our eyes when working with computers.

Tip #1: Exercise your eyes

Avoid staring at the screen for prolonged periods; researchers advise using a 20:20:20 rule; every 20 minutes of working at a computer, exercise your eyes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds (20 feet is about 6 meters).

Tip #2: Moisture is key

To avoid dryness and irritation to the eyes, make sure to blink often. Studies have shown that people generally blink less than usual when looking at digital screens, leading to dry eyes and irritation/ a scratchy feeling.

A recommended blink rate is to (consciously) blink slowly ten times every twenty minutes, in addition to the blinking you’ll do while working.

If you do experience symptoms of dryness and irritation to your eyes, you may need to get eye lubricating drops/ artificial tears to help keep the eyes moist (but consult your medical practitioner first, please!)

Tip #3: Avoid procrastination

Leaving tasks till the last minute will cause you to have to squeeze too much in to a too short space of time, making all thoughts of eye safety fly out the window.

Schedule your tasks well, including periods of rest in between.

Tip #4: Planned down-time

Rest is good for the soul as much as it is good for the eyes.

If your eyes feel tired, some good ol’ slices of cucumber placed on closed eyes, while leaning your head back, works a treat to refresh tired eyes (and look fancy, too). Thank me later.

Every day plan some down time where you have no screens around you at all (yes, phone included), and do something (else) you love – for example spend some time in nature, play with a pet, do a hobby, play a board game with family, read a physical book; whatever you like.

Tip #5: Ergonomics

Arrange your workspace in a way that suits the work you are trying to do, to avoid awkward body postures and / or eye strain.

Ideally, the computer screen must be placed about an arm’s length away from the eyes (50 -100 cm), or whatever distance allows you to read the text on your screen with your head and torso upright and your back supported by your (comfortable) chair. Some other helpful tips are:

  1. Place your computer screen at or below eye level; the recommended angle is a backward screen tilt of 15 – 20 degrees.
  2. Adjust the screen brightness to suit the ambient environmental conditions.
  3. Adjust the text size and font to a level that is comfortable to you – too large or too small will cause your eyes to strain.
  4. Avoid glare from the computer screen by adjusting the screen brightness, adjust the room brightness if possible, and avoid sunlight hitting the screen from behind by placing the screen/ monitor perpendicular to your window.

Tip #6: Take frequent breaks

When working at a computer and particularly when sitting at a desk, be sure to take a break that’s at least ten minutes long, every hour.

When taking your break, it is advisable to get up from the desk and stretch or walk around for a while, to give your eyes as well as your other muscles a break from being in one position.

Tip #7: Get your eyes checked periodically.

Be sure to get your eyes examined at least once a year, or in the frequency recommended by your eye doctor.

You’ve got all the information you need. Now go out there and take care of those eyes!

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