During the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Americans are spending more time on their screens than ever before. Whether we are working from home, helping our kids keep up with academic assignments or just staving off boredom with another video chat session with friends, we are likely going to see our screen time reports escalate.
Coronavirus aside, screens are now a part of our daily lives. The technology and efficiency are amazing, but what are we doing to our eyes? Pre-COVID-19 if you used the tracker on your smartphone that calculates screen time, you might be surprised at how much time you spend looking at screens.
According to Nielsen research, the average U.S. adult is spending nearly 11 hours interacting with screens. It’s no wonder that 70 to 90 percent of heavy computer or screen users experience symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
According to Dr. Chad Overman, director of vision benefits for DeltaVision by Delta Dental of Iowa, our multi-screen life is leading to a new wave of vision and ergonomic issues.
“Computer vision syndrome is more than problems like blurred or double vision, itchy, dry or red eyes. It can also lead to chronic headaches, neck pain or back pain caused from hunching over our small screens. Not only are these issues harmful to our long-term vision health, but they can also negatively impact our work performance.”
While planning out screen-free Sundays can be beneficial for the entire family, screens have become a necessary part of our work and personal lives. Here are five tips to ensure you’re protecting your eyes as much as possible from screen strain as suggested by Dr. Overman and general online sources such as WebMD and All About Vision.
- Adjust your monitor: Ensure your screen is at least 20-30 inches away from your face and that your eyes are level with the very top of your monitor
- Color correct your screen settings: Black text on white or a slightly yellow background reduces strain on your eyes. If your office lights are bright, a cool or bluer color setting is best. You can make these adjustments in your computer settings.
- Switch it up: If you wear contact lenses, consider wearing your regular glasses one to two times per week to give your eyes a break.
- Blink. Blink: When you’re staring at screens, you tend to zone out and the rate of your blinking slows down to 12-14 blinks per minute instead of the average rate of 17. This causes your eyes to lose moisture and causes additional strain. Purposely take blinking breaks. You may also consider using artificial tears to moisturize your eyes.
- Practice 20-20-20: This tip helps your eyes, your spine and your mind. Take a break every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away. Stand up, stretch, work in a quick meditation or plank while you’re at it!
“While following these tips are a great way to protect your eyes from screen strain, there is nothing better than regular visits with your eye doctor,” said Overman. “Use your employer’s vision benefits to your advantage with annual exams with your eye doctor. Through your exam, your eye doctor will help you determine if you need corrective lenses or a new prescription, if you have symptoms of eye strain or if your eyes are showing signs of any other issues.”
Dr. Chad Overman is director of vision benefits of Delta Dental of Iowa.