Thanks to lockdown, we’re on our screens more than ever before – whether it’s doomscrolling, working from home, watching Netflix or finding hacks on TikTok.
And our eyes are paying the price.
Recent research from Specsavers found 42% of people have noticed their sight deteriorate since March 2020 – when the first lockdown came into place.
It revealed that 60% of participants said they spent five hours a day or more looking at screens, including laptops, monitors, phones and TV on weekdays last year. And this figure drops by just 1% at weekends.
Problems don’t stop at our eyes – constant straining can cause headaches, tiredness and more.
Of course, we know it’s practically impossible to ditch screens entirely right now – what with work requirements, the way they act as a welcome distraction and that they allow us to connect with the loved ones we can’t see in person.
But there are still precautions we can take to help protect their eyes from deteriorating. Experts recommend keeping these vital things in mind…
It might sound simple, but the right lighting goes a long way.
Dr Allon Barsam, a laser eye surgeon at Ophthalmic Consultants of London, says it’s important you have enough light in your room.
He says: ‘Make sure you work in a well-lit room. Whether you perch your laptop on the kitchen table, work from the sofa or your bed, your eyes will find it easier to focus when there is plenty of light.’
Think about screen proximity
When it comes to your WFH set-up, it’s important not to have your screen too close to your face.
Dr Allon explains: ‘Eye strain tends to be caused by excessive focusing on objects that are close up, so do keep your face at least a couple of feet away from your screen.’
It’s also worth considering the angle of your screen.
‘If you can look down slightly at your screen, you’ll be working the lower part of the eye that tends to be better lubricated by the tear film, so it’s less likely to get dry,’ adds Dr Allon.
However, you don’t want the screen to be too low as this could cause you to lean your head forward and get a sore neck. It’s best to place the screen on a flat surface and hold your head up straight while working.
Follow the 20:20:20 rule
‘Every 20 minutes you should give your eyes a breather, either by closing them for 20 seconds or focusing on something at least 20 feet away,’ explains Dr Allon.
An easy way to do this is to set a timer on your phone – otherwise it’s easy to get lost in work for a few hours.
Try ‘conscious blinking’
Elizabeth D Hawkes, a consultant ophthalmologist and oculoplastic surgeon at the Cadogan Clinic, says: ‘Using screens for long periods of time subconsciously reduces your blink rate and therefore can worsen symptoms of dry eye.
‘We normally blink around 12 times a minute. Each blink sweeps our tears across the surface of the eye to provide lubrication and keep the surface of the eye clear which is essential for clear vision. ‘
Keeping your eyes lubricated is a good way to help prevent eye strain and one way to do this is through ‘conscious blinking.’
‘When we’re concentrating hard on something, we tend to blink less frequently,’ adds Dr Allon.
‘This can lead to the eye getting dry and contribute to eye strain, so every now and again just blink half a dozen times to keep your eyes working as they should.’
You might look a little strange, but your eyes will thank you.
Use eye drops
Another great way to stop eyes getting dry from excessive screen time is by using drops.
Elizabeth says: ‘So many factors can cause our eyes to become dry and there has been a recent spike in cases.
‘Around 1 in 4 people suffer from dry eye symptoms and this is on the rise. When wearing face masks, our breath is directed towards our eyes which can cause dryness or grittiness in our eyes.
‘Additionally, working from home in front of a screen all day and then binging on Netflix all evening can cause our eyes to become dry, alongside central heating.’
She recommends using eye drops that contain hyaluronic acid and are preservative-free, as these will keep the eyes hydrated and comfortable.
‘Our eyes are made up of mostly water so keeping hydrated and drinking plenty of water is also vital in helping reduce eye strain and keeping the eyes healthy,’ says Elizabeth.
‘Additionally, dehydration can lead to blurred vision and cause other more serious health issues.’
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