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The amount of time you spend staring at a computer screen affects your eyes and can make symptoms of dry eye worse. According to various scientific studies, most of us blink less frequently (up to 66% less) when we’re concentrating or staring at a screen.

Blinking is important because it spreads your tears across the surface of your eyes creating a protective film (‘tear film’). If you blink less, this tear film evaporates, drying out your eyes.

The brightness of your screen also contributes to dryness and tired eyes. The brighter your screen, the more you may find that you’re squinting at the screen (especially towards the end of the day).

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What is the best screen brightness for reducing digital eye strain?

The brightness of your screen should not be left at the default setting - but adjusted according to the brightness of the room that you’re in.

This a handy tip. Adjust the screen brightness to match a piece of white paper (in your room or space). Place the sheet of white paper next to the screen, and adjust the display brightness until it roughly equals the paper’s brightness.

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“The 20-20-20 rule. Look away from your screen every 20 minutes, at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds - this helps to reduce eye strain.”

our top tips for healthy screen time

  • Looking away from your computer screen every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds helps to reduce strain and fatigue on your eye muscles. This is known as the 20-20-20 rule.

  • People usually blink about 18 times a minute. But when they’re on digital screens, they blink at a quarter of this rate - about 6 times a minute. This increases the chance of developing dry eyes. To reduce this risk, blink more often and freshen your eyes periodically with lubricating eye drops or sprays.

  • For the best angle, the centre of the screen, tablet or phone should be 20 to 28 inches from your eyes and 4 to 5 inches below eye level.

  • Your desktop or laptop screen should be about 50cm - 65cm from you and at a height where you’re looking at the middle of the screen. You shouldn’t have to hunch over or look up to see the screen. With mobiles and tablets, as the screen is smaller, hold them about 30cm - 50cm away. The screen should be in front of you at a height that’s comfortable - so that you’re not hunched over. If you’re going to be using a screen for an extended period of time, try switching to a larger screen. Or use a larger font. This helps make words and images easier to see and reduces the strain on your eyes.

  • Adjust the brightness of your screen so that it’s comfortable to look at. If a website has a white background that is so bright that it looks like a light source, turn down the brightness. But if the screen feels grey or dull, you may need to increase the screen brightness. See our handy tip for adjusting your screen brightness below and here.

  • Make sure your screen is positioned so that there’s no glare (from light sources around you). It’s best to place your screen away from windows (i.e. not in front of a window or behind one). This reduces any light glare from the outside, which can irritate your eyes. If you have to sit next to a window, use blinds or curtains to reduce any glare. Overhead fluorescent lights create overhead glare making it difficult for your eyes to focus. Switch to table lamps or adjust the light to a lower wattage to help relax the eyes. If you use a desk lamp, make sure it isn’t pointed directly at your face, but downwards towards the floor.

  • Maintaining a good posture while using computers can reduce neck, back, and eye strain. If you’re looking back and forth between a screen and reference materials, keep the materials where you can see them with minimal head movement. Avoid creating a setup where you’re swivelling your head, too.

  • Keep air vents or drafts from blowing into your face and drying out your eyes. Low humidity in a room can also dry eyes out faster than usual - try adding a humidifier. Dust, too, can irritate eyes and accumulate on your screen - decreasing the screen’s sharpness and may cause eye strain.

  • Eye Drops and Eye Sprays can help lubricate the eyes and reduce dryness and discomfort. Always use preservative-free - as this prevents long-term sensitivity.

  • If you wear glasses, talk to your optician about adding an anti-reflective coating to your glasses. This coating helps minimise the glare from your computer screen and keep your eyes feeling more comfortable. (Also, please make sure you have the right prescription glasses. - otherwise, you’ll strain to focus and read the screen).

  • Wearing special blue light glasses or lenses designed for computer use MAY reduce eye strain and fatigue. We have a detailed article that covers blue light, how it may affect your sleep and eyes - as well steps you can take to manage this.

  • If you work in front of a screen all day, it’s important to take regular breaks. These breaks don’t have to be for very long. Every hour or two, just take a few minutes to walk around and stretch your legs. Not only does this help reduce eyestrain and dryness, but it can also help reduce any neck or back pain you may have.

  • Dehydration makes dry eye symptoms worse. If you’re sitting in front of a screen all day, not drinking enough water will make your eyes feel even worse. Please note that coffee has a mild diuretic effect - so if you're drinking quite a few cups a day, make sure you’re topping up with water.

  • If you’ve tried all of the above and still can’t seem to get relief, it might be time to get your eyes checked by an optician or ophthalmologist. It’s recommended that you get your eyes checked every two years.

  • Some supplements help improve your dry eye and eye strain symptoms. Check out the MTHK Eye Vitamins with maqui berry.

  • “People usually blink about 18 times a minute. But they blink 6 times a minute on digital screens, increasing the chance of developing dry eyes.”

    What is Digital Eye Strain (DES)?

    Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) and Digital Eye Strain (DES) are interchangeable. They’re terms used to describe the visual discomfort and eye-related problems that result from prolonged use of digital devices (e.g. laptops, smartphones, and tablets). In this article, we refer to CVS - but we’re referring to both.

    The prolonged use of these devices can strain the eyes, leading to various symptoms (detailed below). The syndrome can cause discomfort, eye strain, and decreased visual performance, leading to reduced productivity and quality of life. It affects millions worldwide who spend several hours a day looking at screens.

    Computer Vision Syndrome & Digital Eye Strain

    Digital Eye Strain (DES) Symptoms

    • Eye Strain, resulting in discomfort, fatigue and difficulty keeping your eyes open.
    • Headaches due to eye strain and neck pain. This also leads to difficulty concentrating.
    • Neck and back pain as a result of poor posture while using digital devices for extended periods
    • Temporary blurred vision
    • Dry eyes can result from prolonged use of digital devices, leading to discomfort and irritation (watery, burning and/or itchy eyes).
    • Sensitivity to light (photophobia).
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