We spend a lot of time staring at screens; between our computers, phones, and tablets, there’s hardly a moment that goes by when we’re not looking at a screen. According to a Nielsen study, the average adult in the United States spends over 10 hours per day looking at a screen; considering that another 8 hours is ostensibly spend sleeping, that leaves less than 6 hours a day where active sight is directed at anything but a screen. While Canadian demographics may differ, when you consider how ubiquitous computers are for most careers, it’s plain to see that a lot of time is devoted to the black mirror.
Hopefully, that was refreshing for you. I know you’re reading this on a screen right now because I don’t plan on doing paper printouts and distributing this particular blog. That means you’re blinking less than you would otherwise; on average, we blink 12 times a minute, but when we’re staring at a screen, that number falls to 5, less than half of what we would normally do. Consider that we spend more than half our waking hours staring at a screen, then find an app that reminds you to blink regularly, or at least to take a break and walk away.
There’s a particular condition, called computer vision syndrome, that can develop when you’re staring at screens for too long all day and not getting enough rest. This causes strain on the eyes, which can lead to blurry vision, headaches, dry eyes, fatigue, and other uncomfortable symptoms. While sleeping well at night can certainly help alleviate symptoms, there are other steps you can take to relieve some of the strain. You want your screen to be at arm’s length from your eyes, but positioned about 20 degrees below eye level; keep it clean of fingerprints and dust, and avoid setting it up in areas where there’s glare. You can also adjust the color and brightness of your display if you find it’s causing eye strain.
When you’re experiencing eye strain, blurred vision and other symptoms on a regular basis, it’s time to see your optometrist for an eye exam! You might find that there are underlying vision problems causing you grief, but even if it is computer vision syndrome, there’s quite a bit your optometrist can do. You can describe for them the exact conditions of your working environment: how often you use screens, how far away they’re positioned if you’re using multiple monitors and the ergonomic set up of your space can all influence the advise that your optometrist will give you. Consider it an ergonomic assessment of your workplace, but for your eyes! No matter what your setup might be, your optometrist will likely encourage you to follow the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, stare at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds; this acts as a type of “refresh” for your eyes. When you use screens a lot, consider getting off your phone and going outside during lunch breaks; give the screened-out eyes and the thinking mind a break!