It's hard to deny that as a society we're spending more time interacting with technology than ever before. Whether you're checking email on your iPhone, reading books on your Kindle, or are working in front of a computer all day every day, most of us are staring at screens on a consistent basis, and may not be thinking about the effects this has on our health. Yes, a stiff neck or a backache are troublesome consequences of working at a computer for hours on end, however both pail in comparison to the potential degradation of one of our most important organs: our eyes.
So...how bad is the issue really?
Pretty bad. A study by the Academy of Optometry discovered that working for just 2 hours in front of a laptop significantly increased eye pain and issues with vision. Most of us technology users would likely admit we've experienced some symptoms of eye strain - maybe even on a daily basis. Headaches? Blurry vision? Sensitivity to light? It's all too common.
What can we do to love on our eyes?
Reduce That Glare
Clean your screen regularly and make sure it is the most brightly light thing in the room. Avoid using your computer in direct sunlight – as this will cause extra strain on your eyes. You can also download apps like f.lux that work to match the brightness of your device's display with your indoor lighting so there isn't such a harsh contrast for your eyes to adapt to. This can be particularly beneficial for those of us that work at night.
Back it up Buddy
Don't sit too close to your screen. A good rule of thumb is you should be able to reach out and high five your computer screen, but it should be a slight effort to do so. The screen ideally shouldn't be positioned at a tilt and should be right below your eye level for optimal ergonomics.
Blink 182 (times per hour - not the band)
Actually, we should be blinking roughly 1200 time per hour. Blinking is the body's way of cleansing and lubricating the eyes. If we don't blink often enough our eyes can become very dry and irritated which can certainly exasperate vision issues. Remember to blink!
Follow the 20-20-20 rule
Every 20 minutes take a 20-second break and look at something (roughly) 20 feet away from you. You're exercising your vision and giving your eyes a break from the glare on a consistent basis. Stand outside if you can and focus on objects even further off in the distance, then close up. The goal is to exercise your eyes as you would a muscle. Our eyes can atrophy if we're looking at a device which is always the same distance from our body for hours every day.
Rock the Yellow Tinted Shades
They now make blue light blocking sunglasses that you can find for a very affordable price from places like Amazon. You'll also have the side benefit of looking slightly more badass while you work. (or maybe just a little crazy – either way, it's better than neglecting your eyes!) Yellow glasses work to cancel out the blue light emitted by our devices. Not only is blue light more harsh on the eyes, but it can also prevent the pineal gland within the brain from secreting melatonin - one of our body's key sleep regulating hormones. Meaning, if you're not rocking the yellow tinted glasses all day, you may want to consider using them later in the day, especially if you already have issues with sleep.
Limit Screen Time (Yes, even us adults)
Yes, most of us have times where we simply must look at a computer screen, even for 8-9 hours per day, 5 days per week. But during those times we don't absolutely need to be plugged in it's important to give the eyes (and everything else!) a much-needed rest. It can take some self-control to not plug into social media constantly, but the health of your eyes is worth exercising that will-power.
Eat Superfoods For Eye Health
Like health in general, it's certainly not all about the external factors. By eating foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and phytonutrients we build healthier tissue, stronger organs and help prevent degenerative health issues. Beta-carotene – the precursor for Vitamin A - is an amazing nutrient for supporting eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two separate carotenoids which are necessary for the health and proper functioning of our retina, and help protect our eyes as we age. Load up on dark greens, superfood algae powders like spirulina and chlorella, yams, squash, and carrots - all of which are amazing sources of these valuable nutrients.