7 Ways to Keep Digital Eye Strain at Bay

Prolonged gadget use causes significant damage to the eyes. How can you protect yourself from the negative side effects?

When was the last time you spent a day with zero screen time? Coming up with an answer would be tough for most of us. Thinking especially about the increase in screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Filipinos have never been this glued to their gadgets. Case in point: a study by Brussels-based consultancy firm Sortlist revealed earlier this year that on average, Filipinos in 2021 spent 10 hours and 56 minutes per day online. “Of this time, four hours and 15 minutes [were] spent on social media per day, which is equivalent to 65 days in a year,” BusinessMirror expounds in the study. “This placed the Philippines as the country that spends the most time online and on social media.”

This means Filipinos are extremely susceptible to one downside to all this: “computer vision syndrome.” Also referred to as digital eye strain, this involves a variety of problems with eye sight and vision because of extended gadget use. Telltale signs range from the uncomfortable (dry eyes, sensitivity to light, slowness of focus change) to the downright painful (headaches that occur “behind the eyes,” neck strain, backache, failing or blurry vision). So how exactly can we take on eye care from here? Scroll through to find out.

Follow the 20-20-20 rule

For individuals who spend almost the entire day staring at monitors and screens, here’s what eye doctors recommend: for every 20 minutes of screen time, take a break to look at something roughly 20 feet away from you, and hold your gaze for 20 seconds. This is one way to keep your eyes refreshed by counteracting the time you are exposed to harmful blue light.

Just as well, this is something you can easily incorporate into the Pomodoro Technique, a well-known productivity hack, where you commit 25 minutes (adjusted to 20 for this eye care tip’s sake) to focused, uninterrupted work; take a break for five minutes, then start the timer over.

Keep your screens just below eye-level

Thinking about perfecting that posture, it might seem like keeping your screen exactly at your line of sight is ideal. This needs to be debunked. If we’re talking healthy ergonomics, the trick is to keep your screen (whether desktop or mobile) just below eye-level. Here, the middle of your screen should be perpendicular to your chin. Always also remember that there should be a considerable distance between your gadgets and your eyes (think: three-quarters of an arm’s length).

Switch on the “Night Shift” mode at sundown

When using gadgets in dimmer settings, it’s best to switch to night shift or dark mode. As natural light diminishes throughout the day, adjusting your backlight settings accordingly ensures that your eyes can ease into the shift to low-light as well. This helps to slightly eliminate the chance of eye strain or fatigue. How does it work? The warmer, darker mode switches up the colors, saturation, and contrast on your screen so your eyes are comfortable. This way, you also have no problem with glare. 

Eliminate blue light exposure at least one hour before your bedtime

A crucial yet overlooked part of eye care is giving the eyes a rest from screen time outside of your sleeping hours. With people passing this up for late-night streaming, or scrolling through social media as a way to wind down before bed, the eyes never really get a substantial break from blue light exposure. This is the light emitted by gadgets that signal the body to stay alert, ultimately keeping users from getting quality sleep. If possible, remove gadget use from your bedtime routine, and turn your bedside into a gadget-free zone.

Drink plenty of water

Dry eyes could quite literally mean you aren’t hydrating enough. To keep your eyes refreshed, stay on top of your water intake and be sure you get enough liquids. “In terms of eye health, without proper hydration, your body can no longer produce tears, or keep your eyes moisturized,” shares the Canadian Association of Optometrists. “Blurry vision, eye fatigue, and headaches are all signs that you need to drink more water.”

Opt for anti-radiation eyewear

For instances where prolonged screen exposure is a non-negotiable, there’s anti-radiation eyewear. These lenses are designed for the purpose of protecting your eyes. Lenses, like the ones at Sunnies, are “engineered to block blue light, help prevent digital eye strain, and reduce stress when using electronic gadgets.”

Get your eyes checked regularly

Of course, the regular checkup (and tune-up) at the optometrist is still key. For adults ages 20 to 39, an eye exam every two years should suffice. For ages 40 and older, meanwhile, eye checkups should be more frequent: have this scheduled once a year or as advised by your optometrist.

There are other ways to keep your gadget use in check: from apps that help you cut down on screen time, to activities you can actively pursue that don’t involve staring at a screen. 

You can also explore more in Tech Know here.  

Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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