There are some simple things you can do to help prevent eyestrain. Some of them you can even start doing today.
1. Look away frequently, or the 20-20-20 rule
Often eyestrain occurs when you engage in a single activity for too long a period of time without a break. You should shift your focus to something other than the activity every 20 minutes. What you focus on should be 20 feet away, and you should look at it for at least 20 seconds. This is known as the 20-20-20 rule.
You should not only look away every 20 minutes, but also make sure to turn away from an intense activity for several hours during the day. If you have to work at a screen or drive a long distance for multiple hours, make sure to balance that activity with others that demand different uses of your eyes. For example, take a walk outside in the natural light during your lunch break if you’ve spent the whole morning working on a computer.
Read more: 10 things that happen when you sit down all day »
2. Position your screen
Make sure you’re looking at your digital device at the correct distance and in the proper position. The screen should be a few feet away from your eyes, or about arm’s length. You should view the screen at the level of your eyes or slightly below them. This goes for handheld digital devices, too: They should be read at below eye level.
Another handy tip for digital devices is to enlarge the text on the screen to best suit your comfort level. You can likely adjust text size in the settings of your device.
3. Find the right light
Lighting can cause eyestrain. It can either be too dim or too bright, depending on the activity. Light should come from behind you if you’re focusing intensely on something like reading. Dimming the lights may help reduce eyestrain when watching TV.
Make sure the screens that you’re viewing are adequately lit as well. Adjust the brightness as needed. Glare can contribute to eyestrain, so try shading windows or using filters to reduce glare on your digital device.
4. Multitask correctly
It’s common to need to use printed matter or other materials when working on a computer. For example, you may need to transcribe a form or notes. If you have to refer to documents and such while using your computer, you should position them to avoid having to move your eyes, neck, and head too frequently. A document stand can help you place materials between your keyboard and your monitor, resulting in less eyestrain.
5. Use eye drops
Intense focus, particularly when viewing a screen, can result in a dramatic reduction in how many times you blink per minute. When you blink less, your eyes can get dry and irritated. You can resolve this with the use of eye drops like artificial tears. You can also try to blink more often when using a screen, which can prevent the symptom from occurring.
6. Check the air
You may find that you spend time in a place that has poor air quality. Dry or polluted environments and places with fans and heating and cooling units may cause eyestrain. You may want to:
- improve the air with a humidifier
- turn down the heating and cooling system
- relocate to a spot that doesn’t have the same air issues
7. Wear proper eyewear
Work with your doctor to determine if you need special eyewear to reduce eyestrain. You may even need specialized lenses, devices, or eye therapy for the activity that causes strain. Certain coatings and tints for lenses may help your eyes. Or you may find that you need to cut the time you wear contact lenses to help rest your eyes.
8. Reduce time spent on a single activity
A simple way to avoid eyestrain is to limit the time you’re exposed to a single activity that requires intense focus. Try to spend less time on digital devices.