Many people sit in front of a computer screen all day at the office, and then go home and sit in front of another screen.

It gets worse.

They then spend even more time on their smartphones checking social updates and notifications just before bed.

And the first thing they do is to pick up a phone when they get up in the morning.

When the cycle continues for a very long time, your eyes suffer.

According to a Common Sense survey, adults look at screens for around nine hours per day. That’s at least half of your waking hours.

All that staring every day can give your eyes a workout.

And just like any exercise, your eyes get tired too.

Screens cause eye strain because we blink less when we look at screens.

According to Purnima S. Patel, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “The discomfort some people have after looking at screens is most likely digital eye strain. Most of us blink less when looking at screens, causing eye strain and dry eyes.”

“Viewing a computer or digital screen is different than reading a printed page,” according to the American Optometric Association. “Often the letters on the computer or handheld device are not as precise or sharply defined, the level of contrast of the letters to the background is reduced, and the presence of glare and reflections on the screen may make viewing difficult.”

At this point in history, we may not be able to get away from screens, but we can embrace simple habits to protect our eyes.

If you experience sore, tired, watery, itchy, dry or burning eyes after a long day of working behind a computer, this strategy might be useful for you.

Make the 20–20–20 rule a habit

Eye strain is a common ailment among computer users.

And they also disrupt your sleep.

The 20/20/20 rule was popularized by Dr. Jeff Anshell, a specialist in “vision ergonomics.”

The rule says that for every 20 minutes when you are working behind a computer, spend just 20 seconds looking at objects 20 feet away.

The goal of this rule is to give your eyes a break from constant focus.

It’s a simple and easy trick that will allow your eyes to relax.

I try as much as possible to use this rule every day.

It’s hard when you are very focused and working deeply on a task.

But if you can embrace this habit and make it part of your routine, you

I sit behind a laptop for writing purposes and it’s the only rule I have consistently found useful to prevent eye strain.

If you spend a significant amount of time in front of the computer, it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect eyes.

There’s a free app you can use to get started. It’s called Protect Your Vision and it’s compatible with Chrome, Firefox and Safari. It alerts you every 20 minutes to a break.

Once you start observing the 20–20–20 rule, you can alleviate the pain, and your eyes will get the break it needs to function better.

Other equally brilliant ways to protect your eyes

Every day, challenge yourself to not only look away from your computer screen every 20 minutes but choose to make a few of these tweaks to your routine.

Optimize your monitor’s colour temperature.

You can use F.lux. This app makes the colour of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

Make sure your work computer is about an arm’s length away from your face, and the centre of your screen should be about 10–15 degrees below eye level.The key thing to remember is that you should be looking slightly down at your work.

Reduce the brightness on your mobile devices to a comfortable level. It will give off less blue light, which is linked to more eyestrain.

If your current busy work schedule will allow it, take a longer break of about 15 minutes after every 2 hours.

You can also stand when making a call.

Stretch to file paperwork. Stroll to grab a cup of coffee.

When you stop moving for extended periods of time, it’s like telling your body it’s time to shut down. The less sitting you do during the day, the better your chances of living a healthy life.

Swap your smartphone or tablet for an e-reader if you read a lot.

“E-ink screens like Amazon’s Kindle treat your eyes more like paper does than like the backlit screens of computers and tablets do,” says Whitson Gordon of Popular Science.

And research shows they cause significantly less visual fatigue.

If you wear glasses, update your prescription.

Blink more often.

Blinking moistens your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation.

“To reduce your risk of dry eyes during computer use, try this exercise: Every 20 minutes, blink 10 times by closing your eyes as if falling asleep (very slowly). This will help rewet your eyes,” recommends Gary Heiting, OD of All About Vision.

Closing thoughts

Staring at the computer all day is horrible for our eyes.

These preventive measures can contribute to healthier eyes.

If you can embrace a few simple habits and make some physical adjustments to your workspace, you can avoid putting too much strain on your eyes.

Taking a break every few minutes will save your vision and health.

Originally published on Medium.

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