If your eyes are feeling tired, irritated, dry or sore right now, ask yourself how long you’ve been staring at your laptop, tablet or smartphone screen. Chances are, it’s been more than two hours.
Computer vision syndrome, more commonly known as digital eyestrain, affects people who spend prolonged periods looking at digital screens — which is essentially a large majority of us. While our eyes bear the brunt of the condition, digital eyestrain can also lead to headaches, dizzy spells as well as neck and back aches from improper posture. It has also been singled out as a contributing factor to myopia. Coincidentally or not, Singapore has the highest incidence of childhood myopia in the world.
While the cause of digital eyestrain is clear, its solution is less straightforward. It is quite unrealistic to expect people to limit their use of digital devices to just two hours a day—not when the average office executive works on computers for at least eight hours a day, or when students need their laptops and tablets to complete school assignments.
Instead of going cold turkey, try these eye-care tips to help mitigate the effects of digital eyestrain.
Bat your eyelids
On average, people blink about 15 to 20 times a minute. This helps create a healthy tear film over our eyes for clear and comfortable vision. When we’re fixated on a screen, however, we tend to forget to blink. According to some experts, blinking can become as infrequent as three to four times a minute. All that wide-eyed exposure allows dry spots to form on our cornea, causing redness and discomfort. So, as silly as this sounds, remember to blink! Making a conscious effort to blink once every 10 to 15 seconds will help to keep your eyes feeling fresh.
When using a screen, our eye muscles are forced to focus at near range. Keep this up for hours and it’s no wonder so many of us end up with sore, tired eyes. Like the other muscles in our bodies, our eyes need a break too. The Vision Council, a non-profit optical trade organisation in the US, advocates the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break by looking at something 20 feet away. Try it!
Stave off the blues
All digital screens, whether televisions, computers, tablets or smartphones, emit blue light — a short-wavelength visible light that is most associated with digital eyestrain. In a bid to combat technology with technology, optical manufacturers have created computer glasses. These are specially constructed for mid-distance range viewing and usually come with lenses and filters customised to block blue light, decrease brightness and minimise glare.
Japanese optical brand OWNDAYS has a PC collection of ready-to-wear and prescription glasses that are lightweight and comfortable enough even for people who have never worn glasses before. Its lenses are coated with a light brown tint to reduce blue light by about 40% without affecting the wearer’s view.
Create the right ambience
In a dim room, the images on your screen may look crisp and clear but it also means that our eyes are working that much harder to process the differences in contrast. An overly bright environment causes a similar problem — our eyes have to refocus a lot more to achieve clarity. Natural lighting is your best bet. Placing your computer or laptop perpendicular to a large window gives you all the light you need, minus the glare.
If you don’t have the luxury of a window, consider adding a desktop lamp to your workstation. But be warned against creating a ‘spotlight’ effect since the point of the exercise is to reduce sharp differences in contrast. Instead, choose a desktop lamp that is gentle on the eyes, like 3M Polarising Light Desk Lamps. Fitted with the brand’s own light filter, 3M Polarising Light Desk Lamps can create an even spread of light to make viewing more comfortable. In addition, the lamps offer ultra glare reduction, emit zero UV rays, and are energy-saving appliances.
When ambient light is too strong, it tends to bounce off our computer monitor or laptop screen, creating a rather blinding mirror effect. Trying to squint through the glare adds to digital eyestrain, which is why many people opt to fit their screens with an anti-glare protector. These are typically matte surfaces that have been treated to diffuse, rather than reflect, ambient light.
When choosing a new laptop or computer, you might want to look for models that come fitted with an anti-glare screen. The Lenovo Ideapad 500S series, for example, offers a full HD LED Anti-Glare Backlight display. This helps deliver bright, crisp visuals with minimal glare. It also has a 180-degree hinge, which means you can freely adjust the viewing angle for optimal comfort.
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