The ability to work online has opened up so many different avenues of digital work for many of us. It’s even allowed people like me to create a self-employed work-at-home job that fits around family life.
I’ve managed to turn my passion for blogging online into a full-time career and that’s great, but… it does involve the most obscene amounts of time spent looking at screens! Cue, computer eye strain!
I use both my laptop and phone to work on my business, spending up to 14 hours a day looking at screens!
Of course there are breaks to pick the kids up from school, or drop them off, cooking dinner, making packed lunches, cleaning the house and running errands. Some days I do work less, but if I’m stacked with work then Ben will take over most of the cooking and cleaning duties and allow me to crack on with work.
14 hours is the maximum I ever spend online and most days it’s closer to ten hours.
It sounds a lot, but have you ever worked out just how much time you spend looking at screens?
Think just how long you spend at work on a computer. 8 hours?
Then add how many hours you spend in the morning and evening looking at your smartphone or tablet. 2 hours? 3 hours? 4 hours?
You’re probably hitting the same length of time as me, without even realising it.
Digital eye strain symptoms
Computers aren’t going anywhere and many of us depend on them for our livelihoods. But they can have a negative impact on our eye health so it’s important to take steps to protect the health of your eyes.
So what are the negative effects of staring at a computer screen all day long?
According to Vizulize, prolonged exposure to screens can cause the following symptoms:
- eye strain
- tired, sore eyes
- blurred or double vision
- dry, irritated, or itchy eyes
- watery eyes
If you’re suffering from any of these then it could be a result of excessive screen time!
Step away from the screen!
I know my eyes start to feel tired and sore whenever I have long days at the computer. Just recently I was stacked with work and spent three days literally glued to my screen, staying up way later than usual to get work complete.
For around two days after I had bloodshot eyes which I put down to computer eye strain. My eyes just needed a good break and rest.
I took a whole half day off, got an early night and my eyes were thankfully back to normal.
It’s a little worrying how much of an effect looking at a computer screen can have on our eye health, so it’s a good idea to take steps to negate these ill effects.
How can I protect my eyes when working on computer all day?
Luckily there are several ways to help maintain the health of your eyes if you work on a screen all day long.
Here are a few to get you started:
Take regular screen breaks
It’s so important to at least look away from the screen every now and then to give your eyes a rest. If you type a lot, then you could simply look at your keyboard as you type, instead of the screen.
It’s widely advised to look away from your screen to a distance of at least 20 foot, at least once every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds to give your eyes a chance to refresh themselves. It’s known as the 20-20-20 rule. It’s simple, but effective.
Don’t skip your lunch break or tea breaks in favour of getting work complete, or for more online browsing! Take the opportunity to get outdoors in natural light, get some fresh air and don’t look at any screens for the duration.
If your eyes are feeling very strained from the screen, then your eyes may need a longer break. Tackle a work task that doesn’t need a computer. Use a notebook and pen for a while if you can and return to the screen once your eyes feel comfortable again.
Less screen time is obviously going to make the most difference, so reduce it when you can.
Turn down the brightness
If your screen is set to the highest brightness, turn it down!
The same goes if it’s too low - turn it up. Your eyes shouldn’t be straining to see the screen. Find a comfortable setting that’s not too low or bright.
If you are working in low light or during the evening, or even in bed, then make use of your devices night-mode screen light.
This setting will reduce the blue light and use a more orange looking light in its place. Not only will this put less strain on your eyes, but it should help you go to sleep easier too.
Reduce screen glare
Reflected light from the screen can cause additional strain to the eyes, as well as the light from the screen itself.
Try to position yourself to work in natural light if possible, but without it glaring off the screen. If you face the window instead of having your back to it then that should do the trick.
Or rearrange your desk so artificial overhead lights aren’t glaring off your screen.
It’s also possible to buy anti-glare monitor covers to reduce glare.
We stop blinking as often when using computer screens, which is a major cause of dry eyes. Make a conscious effort to remember to blink more when you are looking at a screen.
Don’t be too close
To stop your computer screen from damaging your eyes, you also need to think about its position and closeness.
Keep your computer screen at an arm’s length away from you if possible. The closer you are to the screen, the closer you are to the bright lights. Being further away will lessen the strain on your eyes.
Wear glasses or contacts if needed
Don’t struggle to see just to avoid wearing your glasses or contact lenses. Squinting to see things in focus can cause eye strain that leads to eye fatigue and headaches.
Have your eyes tested regularly
Eye tests don’t just check whether you need prescription glasses or contact lenses, but they also check the health of your eyes.
Make sure you attend a regular appointment to ensure you can see properly, but to also ensure there are no eye health issues to address. You should attend an eye test every two years.
I know mine is due and I need to book it. When was the last time you had an eye test?
Your opticians will also have advice on caring for your eyes with regards to excessive screen time, so pick up the latest leaflets and personal, professional advice whilst there.
Relieve with eye drops + sprays
If your symptoms are occasional then you can find fast relief using eye drops and sprays for dry eyes. Perhaps you just have a big deadline to meet and it’s a rare occurrence.
Eye drops can give you the relief you need and can be purchased over the counter. However, if dry eyes persist then book an eye health check with your optometrist.
We all know that looking at screens for long periods of time is not good for our eyes. We just need to make sure we follow the advice out there to protect the health of our eyes.
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