You may have grown up with a parent telling you, “Turn off that TV or you’ll wreck your eyes.” While this turns out to be mostly myth (though it did get you to turn off the TV), gone are the days of only watching an hour or two of TV a day.
Today, Americans spend an average of 10 hours and 39 minutes looking at a screen, from smartphones to desktop computers. And this number may be low given how many people are now relying on screens to work and go to school remotely.
If you’re worried about the effects of excessive screen time, Dr. Curtis Frank and our team here at Vision and Ortho-K Center decided to take this opportunity to address the subject.
In the following, we take a look at why staring at a computer screen for most of the day may affect your eyes.
Computer eye strain
Like most areas of your body, your eyes contain small muscles that help them focus. And like other muscles in your body, if you rest these muscles in one position for extended periods, you create strain.
Your eyes are meant to be focusing and refocusing on everything around you at different distances. When you sit in front of a computer screen, your eyes remain focused on one point at the same distance for long periods, which can lead to strain.
To avoid digital eye strain, we recommend that you follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away from the computer screen and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you have trouble remembering to do this, why not use the device right in front of you and create a timer?
Dry eyes and computers
Another problem that crops up with excessive computer use is that most people don’t blink as often as they should, which can lead to, or exacerbate, dry eyes. Every time you blink, you spread crucial moisturizers and nutrients over the surfaces of your eyes to help them function optimally.
Under normal circumstances, a typical person blinks 15-20 times per minute. If you stare at a screen, you’re likely not reaching these numbers, which can lead to dry, itchy eyes.
To remedy this, try to remember to blink and use your 20-20-20 rule to really blink it out.
Another potential source of eye strain is computer glare. This problem is usually made worse when the lighting of your computer greatly contrasts with your surrounding lighting. In other words, you don’t want your computer to glare, but be lit in the same way that your surroundings are lit.
While adjusting both the lighting of your computer screen and your ambient lighting can help, we also offer anti-glare lenses that can filter out the harsh light.
There are differing opinions as to whether the blue light from your computer screen affects your eyes. While more research is needed, we do know that blue light can impact our circadian rhythms, which are sleep-wake cycles. For this reason, many people recommend that you turn off screens long before you get into bed so that you don’t interfere with your body’s production of melatonin — your sleep hormone.
At our practice, we also offer lenses that filter out blue light, which offer some peace of mind when you’re working for hours on end at the computer.
If you’re experiencing dry or tired eyes, and even headaches and back and neck pain, it may be time to consider how your computer time is creating these problems. To learn more and let Dr. Frank take a look at your eyes, contact our office in Boston, Massachusetts, to set up a consultation.