How much time are you spending looking at a screen? Research suggests that on average, American adults are spending upwards of 11 hours per day interacting with digital media. From work emails to ebooks and social media, screens have become a central part of our routines.
While these devices are a gateway to new information and entertainment, there are serious side effects to consider when consuming so much digital content, including screen fatigue.
If you’ve been on more Zoom calls than you can count in the last six months, or have been getting lost in the YouTube black hole more often than usual, we have some topics for fighting that screen fatigue once and for all.
WHY IT MATTERS: STRAIN AND STRESS ARE DANGEROUS
Sore eyes, also called asthenopia, is one of the side effects of consuming digital at a high rate, but screen fatigue can bleed into other areas of your wellbeing. The vast amounts of information that come from your digital devices, combined with the light emitted from the screen, can cause significant stress. Stress, in turn, can lead to a number of health-related problems, according to the guide, How to Free Yourself From Stress. Some of those problems include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease and hypertension
- Digestion issues
WAYS TO MANAGE SCREEN FATIGUE
Managing your screen fatigue matters because your long-term health matters. When you make small decisions each day to improve your routines to accommodate for screen time, you’ll begin to see gradual improvements in your sight, stamina, and overall health. Here are five ways to do exactly that.
1. Adjust Your Technology Settings
Before turning on your personal device, there are a few adjustments you can make in your settings that dramatically reduce the strain impact on your eyesight. Wired shares a few simple but powerful adjustments you can make starting right now:
- Monitor position: Keep your computer monitor at least 20 to 30 inches away from your face and keep your eyes level with the top of the screen.
- Brightness. Adjust the screen brightness to mirror the brightness of your surroundings. For example, compare the light coming from a laptop to its surrounding desk space. Is the screen is acting as a light? Turn it down. If it’s difficult to read or see, increase the brightness.
- Temperature. Adjust the screen temperature to be warmer (yellow) in dark rooms and colder (bluer) in bright areas. For example, set your phone and computer for “night mode” so at sunset, it shifts from blue to yellow automatically.
2. Purchase Proper Eyewear
Too much blue light from screens can even make it harder to sleep when it’s time to go to bed. The good news is, you don’t need prescription glasses to get yourself protection. There are plenty of affordable blue light glasses that support your eyes, even if you have 20/20 vision, and these are often referred to as Blue Light Blockers.
There are dozens of brands and options on the market, so check out this list from NYMag, reviewing some of the top brands.
3. Take Breaks
While it might seem simple, giving your eyes a break is one of the best things you can do to reduce the impact of screen fatigue. Ophthalmologists have developed the 20-20-20 rule:
Direct your eyes away from the screen every twenty minutes and focus on an object roughly 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
This simple practice is an effective method to help your eyes relax and recharge after screen use. If you’re worried about managing your screen fatigue and staying productive, consider implementing the “Pomodoro” technique, an effective time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo.
After dividing your day into essential tasks, Cirillo recommends using the following cadence:
- Select the task to be accomplished.
- Set a timer for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Work on the task.
- Stop working when the timer goes off and take a 3 to 5 minute break.
- Continue this cadence until four time periods have passed and take a 15- to 30-minute break.
- Stop when the task is complete.
The key to making the most of this technique, getting both the productivity and eye rest, is to commit to doing the task between breaks:
“Make sure you focus on your task completely during those 25 minutes. Disconnect from your social media accounts, close your email, set your instant messaging app on ‘busy,’” suggests communication experts at Hubgets.
4. Blink Frequently
How many times did you blink in the last minute? It might be hard to keep track, because it’s an inherent action our body performs to manage dry eyes. Yet, when staring at a screen, you may be blinking less, which can cause eye-related symptoms:
“As we stare at the computer screen or while reading our blink rate decreases. We actually blink 66% less while working on the computer. This will cause your eyes to feel dry and to burn,” explains the University of Iowa Health Center.
To cut down on the effects of screen fatigue on your body and eyes, consider these suggestions from the University of Iowa Health Center:
- Heighten your awareness around blinking enough so you can focus on blinking more.
- Take a vision break, following the 20-20-20 rule or Pomodoro rule—plan to take a screen break at least 15 minutes.
- Use eye lubricants to combat dryness.
5. Talk to a Professional
While screen fatigue can often be addressed by basic lifestyle adjustments, it’s possible that you will need the support of a doctor. If you’re beginning to notice an increase in screen-related side effects, schedule both a comprehensive eye and wellness exam to look better understand what’s happening and how you can shift to a healthier screen experience.
FIGHT SCREEN FATIGUE NOW
You may not be able to get away from screens, especially when working remotely, but you can mitigate the effects screen fatigue has on your body. Use these tips to get your work done without causing detrimental health problems along the way.
About the author:
Jessica Thiefels is a business owner, author of 10 Questions That Answer Life’s Biggest Questions and host of Mindset Reset Radio, a personal development podcast. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has more than 800+ published articles worldwide. She’s written for AARP, Reader’s Digest and Lifehack and regularly contributes to FastComapny, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.