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Lately I have been looking into the science behind how computer monitors can destroy your vision over long periods of time. I have first-hand experience with this being in the IT/computer developer field, and I have been exploring ways to help protect my vision since I am on the computer 8+ hours a day.
There are a couple ways that I have been attempting to protect/restore my vision and preserve my overall health, but first I want to outline why staring at a computer all day can be bad for your vision. A monitor flickers at an incredibly fast rate that is not perceivable to the human eye. When I mention the term flicker, think of a strobe light that alternates between emitting light and no light very fast so that it looks like the light is always on. Even though you cannot perceive this flicker, your brain and eyes try to process the light being turned on and off quickly. Your body compensates for this by expanding and contracting your pupil to try to keep up with the light on your monitor turning on and off. This puts a tremendous strain on your eyes and makes your eyes work much harder than normal. The faster the monitor flickers, the better it is for your eyes. So why can’t a monitor just flicker so fast that our brains and eyes do not try to adjust? Well, with our current technology, it’s impossible to increase the frequency of the monitor flicker to a high enough speed that would not affect our eyes, so we make due with what we have.
To add to monitor flicker, when someone is intensely focused (we’ve all been in the zone before), you don’t blink as much. This can dry out your eyes and make your eyes even more tired.
Not only is your monitor working your eyes hard, it’s training your brain to stay awake too! The blue light that monitors (or any light that contains blue light like the Sun) emit tells your brain to stay awake. This is why if you have trouble sleeping, it does not help to be on your computer, phone, iPad, etc at night before bed. Blue light has also been shown to be bad for your eyes, and certainly does not promote good sleep!
To mitigate these risks many developers or desk-bound workers face, I employ a couple strategies:
- Moisturize your eyes! While I wouldn’t recommend rubbing lotion in your eyes, I do try to remember to blink a lot! Blinking moisturizes your eyes and gives them some relief from the strain they experience. If I get in the zone and realize my eyes are getting tired or strained, I will close my eyes for a short period of time to give them some rejuvenation. Also, yawning can be very good for moisturizing your eyes. Moisturizing all boils down to blinking, yawning, and closing your eyes. This includes getting enough sleep to properly rest and moisturize your eyes.
- Look at something besides your computer. There are many theories out there about how often to look away from your computer and for how long. I do not stick to any one regimen, but I do try to look away from my computer a couple times per hour for a total of approximately 5 minutes/hour. This includes bathroom breaks, getting up for water, etc. I also try to get up and move around, stretch, walk around, etc. to relieve my eyes, brain, and body from the strain of sitting at the computer. Also, try to look at far away objects. This will help relax your eyes.
- Limit your blue light. For me, I limit blue light (especially at night) mainly so I can sleep better. But not only will you notice that you can sleep better if you decrease your blue light throughout the day, and especially at night, but I seem to notice that my eyes do not feel as tired when I am looking at a screen with less blue light. To do this, reduce the color temperature on your computer or device. Reducing temperature is equivalent to reducing blue light. You may notice the screen looks more red, but after awhile, you really stop noticing. You can do this on your phone too. If you want to go all-in on blue light blocking, there are blue light blocking glasses you can buy from Uvex for less than $10 on Amazon. For additional information on blue light, visit the following page: http://www.bluelightexposed.com/#what-are-the-effects-of-blue-light-exposure-on-our-health.
- If you can, get a matte screen. A glossy, reflective screen is more like a mirror where you can see objects behind you. This is bad for your eyes because your eyes perceive the screen as well as the objects behind you. This whole time, your eyes are trying to focus on one thing, but which do they focus on – the screen or the objects behind you?
- Exercise your eyes! When I take my breaks from the computer, I try to perform eye exercises a couple times a day. Your eyes are controlled by 4 muscles, and just like any other muscle, they need to be exercised to perform at optimal capacity. Eye exercises you can do include repeatedly moving your eyes from left to right, up and down, and diagonally both ways, and rolling your eyes in a full circle both clockwise and counter-clockwise. To go along with this, you can also massage your eyes. Furthermore, you can focus on certain objects. For example, take a pen and hold it in front of your face. Concentrate on the pen and move it from right in front of your face to arm’s length away focusing on the pen the entire time.
- Additionally, you can change fonts on your computer or device to make it easier on your eyes. I have not personally tried this option, but am looking more into this.
With all that in mind, I still do not have perfect vision, but I can say from experience that when I employe these tactics, especially resting my eyes, looking away, blinking, yawning, and eye exercises, my eyes do not feel as tired or strained. For a really good podcast on this subject, visit the following website:
How Your Computer Monitor Is Slowly Killing Your Eyes, And What You Can Do About It.