Many of us are familiar with the discomfort we so often experience after spending a long day at the office, or even a lazy weekend afternoon bingeing a TV series. Eye strain is an extremely common condition and a phenomenon that will likely become ever more common as we spend increasing hours in front of a wider variety of screen devices.
It can be hard to notice how much screen time we’re really getting because we’re so immersed in the number of devices. We leave work computers to stare at our smartphones on the way home and then watch television over dinner and scroll through our newsfeeds before bed. And many of the symptoms of eyestrain are vague and so common they could easily be dismissed.
Sore, tired, twitching, or burning eyes can easily be identified as symptoms of eyestrain, as can blurred vision, and dry or watery eyes. Anything involved with the eyes and sight is easy to identify. But dizziness, headache, lightheadedness, and even nausea can all likewise be symptoms of eyestrain.
Our eyes get tired from overuse just like the rest of our bodies. Luckily, eye strain is unlikely to cause permanent damage, but once we take notice of our symptoms, we can quickly ease discomfort with a helpful and simple trick called the 20-20-20 rule.
The 20-20-20 Rule
It’s easy to remember and easy to do: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Why 20? Well, the objects don’t have to be 20 feet away, but far enough to be meaningful. It’s helpful to measure at first, for a reference, if you’re not sure. 20 minutes is a good amount of time to be productive in stretches, and take intermittent breaks for the sake of your overall health. And science says that it takes about 20 seconds for your eyes to relax, so that’s the minimum amount of time you should gaze off into the distance to give your eyes a break.
To remember, just set a reminder alarm for yourself or use an app until you’re in the habit. Eventually, it will become second nature, and you’ll know without checking the clock when you need a break.
At The Desk
There’s plenty that you can do to ensure that your time spent sitting and staring at a computer screen, between 20-minute breaks, is as stress-free as possible for your eyes. There are lots of factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing eye strain, and time spent staring at a screen is just one of them.
Consider where your computer screen is located relative to your eyes. If it helps, think of it as a 20-20-20-25 rule, and make sure to keep your screen about 25 inches away from your face, or about an arm’s length. You should be looking slightly downwards at your screen, with the center of the monitor about 4 to 8 inches below your eye level. If you have trouble positioning your monitor comfortably, it may be worth investing in a computer monitor arm as this can reduce neck strain as well as eye strain – Check out our range of single and dual monitor arms here.
Of course, the screen itself can be modified to reduce eye strain. Changing the tint of the light to a slightly warmer color can make it more comfortable to use at night. And during the day, you can reduce the glare on the screen by changing the brightness and contrast, or adjust your window shades.
Whole Body Health
Eye strain—like many other health issues—can be mitigated by how you treat your body. If you already have eye problems, especially untreated ones, you are starting off at a higher risk of eye strain. One study found that nearly 71% of people who experience eyestrain already wear glasses or contact lenses. If you wear glasses or contacts, keep up with getting your eyes checked regularly to make sure you’re wearing the right prescription, so you don’t do further damage to your sight. And whether or not you wear glasses or contacts, try blinking more often or using eye drops to keep your eyes moist. In dry office spaces, humidifiers can go a long way.
While you’re getting into the 20-20-20 groove, use the opportunity to build even healthier habits. When you take your break, use the opportunity to get up, stretch, walk around, and switch positions. Stroll over for a glass of water, because staying hydrated will help your eyes and the rest of your body. Taking screen breaks will save your eyes some stress, and taking seat breaks will save your whole body some strain.
How long did you spend reading this article? Is it time to stand up for a 20-20-20?