Too Much Screen Time? Signs You’re Suffering From Digital Eye Strain
Much of our lives take place in front of a screen. Whether you’re answering Zoom calls for work or enjoying a Netflix special with the family, it can be hard limiting our time in front of digital devices.
In fact, a survey conducted by OnePoll found that the typical American adult spends an average of 17 hours and 9 minutes on digital devices every single day. They broke that down by device, too. The researchers found that folks spend an average of 5 hours on a laptop, 4.5 hours watching T.V., 4.5 hours on a smartphone, and 3 hours on a gaming device each day.
Although digital devices have transformed our lives in many positive ways, spending too much time in front of a screen can be damaging to your mental and physical health. It can lead to weight gain, trouble sleeping, and chronic neck and back pain. Even more, too much screen time has been linked to an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
Screen time can also affect your overall eye health, as it can result in digital eye strain, which comes with a myriad of side effects. But don’t worry – there are numerous ways to continue enjoying digital screen while protecting your eyes. Below, we explain what digital eye strain is, its symptoms, and how you can incorporate easy ways to avoid it into your daily routine.
What Is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain, which is also known as computer vision syndrome, refers to a variety of vision-related problems that are the result of spending prolonged periods of time in front of a digital screen.
Viewing something on a digital screen is different and more strenuous than reading a page of print because the images aren’t as sharp and background contrast is often reduced. Additionally, glares or reflections on the screen can make it more difficult to see what’s in front of you. This is often exacerbated by bad lighting, improper viewing distances, poor posture, and uncorrected vision problems. As a result, this requires more movement and focusing power from the eyes, thereby causing visual strain.
Signs You’re Suffering from Digital Eye Strain
Digital eye strain is characterized by a variety of physical symptoms. If you experience one or more of the following side effects, it could be a sign that you’ve spent too much time in front of a screen. It’s important to note that the severity of digital eye strain is directly linked to the amount of time spent on a digital device; the more time in front of a screen, the worse the symptoms are likely to be.
According to the AOA, symptoms of digital eye strain include:
- Dry eyes
- Eye fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Red, irritated eyes
- Headaches or migraines
- Neck and shoulder pain
How To Protect Your Eye During Screen Time
The good news is that there are many ways to avoid digital eye strain without disrupting your routine. The best and most effective way to reduce the effects of digital eye strain is to take a break from digital devices. Most of the visual symptoms that result from computer vision syndrome are temporary and go away after the person has stopped focusing on the digital screen.
However, there are things that can be done ahead of time to prevent the onset of digital eye strain or lessen its symptoms. These include:
Adjust your environment
Things like poor lighting and bad posture contribute to digital eye strain. Make sure your work environment is conducive and comfortable. For example, the best way to view a computer is downward. It should be around 15 to 20 degrees (or 4 to 5 inches) below eye level, while the computer should be sitting around 16 to 30 inches away from you.
Similarly, adjust the computer’s position. Use curtains and blinds to block the sun as well as light bulbs with a lower wattage to reduce glare. Consider using an anti-glare screen to reduce the glare from your computer's display.
Finally, make sure your seat position is comfortable to promote good posture. Your feet should be able to rest flat on the floor, while your wrists shouldn’t touch the keyboard as you type.
Plan regular breaks
Symptoms of digital eye strain often go away once you step away from digital devices, so this underscores the importance of taking regular breaks. The AOA suggests folks take a 15-minute break after every 2 hours of continuous computer use – which is a good excuse to take a well-deserved break!
Even more, it’s important to look away from your digital screen for at least 20 seconds for every 20 minutes you’re in front of the digital device.
Consider computer glasses
Computer glasses, also known as blue light blocking glasses, claim to reduce the effects of eye strain by filtering out the blue light emitted by digital screens before they reach the eye. They promise to have a variety of benefits, including:
- Promoting better sleep
- Helps you work for longer
- Reducing symptoms of digital eye strain
The research on blue light blocking glasses is still limited, so their efficacy is up for debate. Speak to your eyecare professional to learn more about their potential benefits and to determine if they’re right for you.
Correct existing vision problems
Existing vision problems, such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), or astigmatism (blurry vision at near and far distances), can exacerbate the effects of digital eye strain. Since your eyes are already straining to compensate for the existing vision problem, they’ll have to work even harder when spending long bouts in front of a digital screen. This is why correcting existing vision problems can help reduce digital eye strain.
Glasses and contact lenses only provide a short-term solution but can become inconveniences when spending a lot of time on digital devices. For example, dry eye syndrome (DES) occurs when wearing contacts for long periods. As this is already a digital eye strain symptom, it increases the likelihood and severity of DES if you wear contacts and spend time in front of a screen.
LASIK eye surgery, however, provides a long-term solution for common vision problems by reshaping the cornea itself. This can offer you an abundance of convenience in your daily life, including in helping to reduce the effects of digital eye strain.
As noted, the symptoms of digital eye strain often go away once you’ve stopped looking at screens. But if it becomes a recurring problem, we encourage you to speak to your eyecare professional. They will complete a series of test to diagnose whether you’re suffering from computer vision syndrome as well as its severity, and can provide you with recommendations to reduce the effects.
To learn more about all things vision, including how LASIK eye surgery may provide a long-term solution to your eyesight problems, be sure to visit our blog.