Screen Time and Your Eyes

By Breanna Callahan

Did you know the average person spends over 10 hours per day staring at screens? By screens, I mean phones, computers, televisions, and tablets.

You may notice after you have been working on your computer for a while or scrolling through your social media feed on your phone that your eyes get tired. They burn. You find yourself squinting. You might even get headaches.

This is what I was going through when I decided to make an eye appointment. I told Dr. Klein I thought my glasses prescription needed to be stronger because I was experiencing these symptoms. She asked me how many hours a day I am looking at screens. After thinking about it quickly, I figured about 10 hours during a work day.

After completing the eye exam it turns out my eyesight had not gotten any worse. Dr. Klein explained that when we are looking at screens, we blink less. Blinking actually helps to keep moisture in the eye. Too little moisture causes the burning, straining and general eye discomfort.

I was also concerned with the blue light rays screens emit. I had heard of blue light and even lenses that can protect your eyes from blue light. When I asked if blue light ray blocking eyeglasses would help with my discomfort and headaches I was hopeful they were my answer. Dr. Klein then explained that even though staring at screens can causes eye discomfort and that screens emit blue light, there is not enough evidence to say that it’s the blue light rays actually causing the eye discomfort. So simply put, lenses that claim to protect against the effects of blue light rays really wouldn’t help.

That was not the answer that I was hoping for. I need to look at screens most of the day at work, and when I get home, among other things, I do watch TV and use my phone to catch up on social media. So of course, my next question was, if blue light protecting glasses wouldn’t really help, what would help?

Luckily Dr. Klein had some solid suggestions I am happy to say have helped. She said she recommends the 20/20/20 rule. You should take a break from looking at screens every 20 minutes. When you take a break, look 20 feet in the distance and blink for 20 seconds. Another thing she said I could try was over the counter lubricating eye drops.

Since we are talking about blue light, there is one other thing I should mention. Blue light blocks melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that helps you to sleep at night. Screen time in the evening can disrupt your ability to fall asleep and sleep well.

So, what is the solution? I don’t know about you but for me sleep, quality sleep, is a precious commodity. There are a couple things to try. You can make sure you aren’t spending too much time on screens before bed. This is a good idea for many reasons (self-care, mental health, relationships with significant others).

Another thing you can do is adjust the screen contrast on your tablet/computer/cell phone. These devices often times have “night mode” which lowers the contrast, so your screen appears to have a yellow tint.

I am glad that I asked Dr. Klein about what I was experiencing. She saved me the cost of buying fancy lenses that I didn’t need while also helping me to understand how to minimize eye discomfort from staring at screens all day.


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