How many of you have stepped away from your computer at the end of the day and felt that everything farther away than your outstretched arm looked blurry or out of whack? You try blinking. You try shaking your head. You clean your glasses. Nothing helps. Why?
You may be a victim of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS… See what I did?) or Digital Eye Strain. And, yes. It is a real thing. Even those who don’t “need” glasses have been known to suffer the effects.
Residual blurred vision is not the only symptom of CVS. Sufferers may also experience headaches, dry eyes, burning and tearing. Even neck and shoulder pain! And it isn’t limited to people who Look at a computer monitor all day at work. Thought the average American worker spends an average of 7 hours a day in front of a computer, we also spend our off hours in the presence of electronic devices. Our phones, tablets and e-readers are just as culpable as our laptops and desktops.
And it isn’t exclusive to grown-ups, either. Young people aged 8 to 18 get an average of 7-8 hours of screen time every day!
Besides the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, that much time using e-devices increases exposure to ultraviolet radiation and harmful high-energy blue light.
We’ve talked about blue light before. How it can cause physical damage to the eye as well as play havoc on our body’s circadian rhythm – or sleep cycle. Tie that up with the headaches, blurred vision and dry eyes and you have yourself a nice little package of Computer Vision Syndrome.
Experts tell us to relieve the symptoms of digital eye strain, we should limit our screen time and refrain from using any electronic devices for at least 2 hours before bed – [insert eye roll emoji here]. While we hear this and understand it, putting it into practice may not always be feasible.
Our workdays are at least 8 hours long. Sometimes 12 or more. Many of us spend most, if not all, of that time in front of some kind of screen. Children are often required to put in several hours at school, then they come home and do homework in front of a screen. Never mind the seemingly endless hours playing video games and watching movies.
So… What do we do? How do we make it stop??!!
Two solutions are very simple as long as you remind yourself to do them:
First, follow the 20-20-20 Rule. For every 20 minutes of screen time, look away from your device and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Second, blink! Blink! Blink! Blink! Our blink rate slows significantly when we are using e-devices. This causes our eyes to get dry which causes discomfort and blurriness.
Besides these recommendations, making sure that you have proper vision correction is vital.
In fact, we have lenses available that will reduce Computer Vision Syndrome even if you don’t have a prescription. And they will protect your eyes – and your sleep – from the harmful blue light radiation.
So. Why electronic devices and not books? Shouldn’t e-readers be easier on the eyes than a regular page?
Well, like many things in life, what seems to make sense in a logical world does not transfer logically to the real world. One would believe that the fact that theses devices are illuminated would make them easier on the eyes. The reality is the harshness of these backlit screens can cause glare and reflections. And, before you ask, the “glare” and/or “blue light” filters on your phones and tablets don’t always make a significant difference. Plus, most of these filters distort color and contrast which can cause your eyes to work harder to focus. Also, if you rely on true color and contrast for whatever task you’re doing, these filters can alter them drastically.
So. How is my sleep altered by Computer Vision Syndrome?
There is a hormone produced by our body’s pineal gland called “melatonin”. Melatonin is like a vampire – it only comes out at night. The pineal gland wakes up when the sun goes down, working the overnight shift to produce the hormone that helps regulate the body’s sleep cycle.
This little gland relies on dim light or full darkness to operate. The lights from our e-devices are bright enough to disrupt production. Regardless of when the melatonin starts being released, it stops when the pineal gland sees the sun come up. When we finally do fall asleep, the disruption in melatonin production does not allow for a restful sleep and we wake up before our bodies and our eyes are fully rested.
There are a few solutions that are available to help reduce the amount of high energy blue light that enters the eye.
And remember! The biggest culprit of high energy radiation is the sun! Protect your eyes when you are outside from both harmful blue light and ultraviolet radiation. We have ways of helping you do that from Transitions light-adaptive lenses to polarized sun lenses.
Simple adjustments can be made at your workstation to help cut down the indoor offenders in order to reduce the effects of Computer Vision Syndrome.
If using a monitor, most people find that looking down at the screen is best. Usually about 4 to 5 inches below your eye level and around 24 inches away from your eyes gives optimal comfort. Both from your eyes’ perspective and your neck’s!
Your lighting is important, too. Lower wattage, indirect lighting helps keep the glare to a minimum while still comfortably balancing the contrast and color.
If you find yourself with headaches, eyes that feel liked boiled onions and aching shoulders by the end of the day, you could be a victim of Computer Vision Syndrome.
Come see us to help alleviate some of your distress.