I used to only care about two things when it came to my digital screens; the image clarity and color accuracy. Today’s displays have crystal clear images and colors so vibrant that it’s like looking through a window. Even spreadsheets and graphs have become slightly more bearable when looked at on a bright and crisp display. I should be in heaven right?
Unfortunately I can’t look at displays with the same admiration anymore. I know too much now and there’s no going back. I partially blame it on being an Optician, having worked alongside eye doctors for well over a decade, but being a Dad to two young boys shares equal responsibility in my recent push to get life in front of digital displays right.
Over the past couple years I’ve been paying extra attention to my screens brightness, turning on night mode in the evening and measuring my screen time. All because of three simple words that changed everything; harmful blue light.
According to Google Trends, the search terms blue light, digital eye strain (DES) and computer vision syndrome (CVS) have seen an upward pattern world wide over the past 5 years, hitting a noticeable spike as recent as December 2018.
This data makes two things clear. First, we are past the denial stage regarding our dependency and overuse of digital devices. Secondly, we are now at the point where trepidation and concern has moved us to investigate the possible side effects.
There is a palpable movement to create greater awareness but there is a long road ahead. According to a recent report from The Vision Counsel, 25% of parents say they are not concerned about the effects that digital devices could have on their children’s eyes. A staggeringly high number considering 75% of adults admit to suffering from some form of Computer Vision Syndrome.
Having personally spent the past two years studying and creating content around the topics of digital eye strain, blue light and computer vision syndrome, I can tell you that even with all the resources available to the public online, there are still many misconceptions, misleading statements and misinterpreted data regarding CVS.
Know thy enemy
The easy way out would be to blame technology and it’s ever growing footprint at work, school and home but this would be unfair. Even if all blue light were eliminated from digital screens we would still suffer from digital eye strain because the root of the problem is our uninterrupted attention to what’s on the display. We are simply not letting our eyes rest and recover.
Let’s say it’s a cold day and I need the warmth of a burning flame. If I hold my hands close enough and keep them there long enough I won’t just warm-up my hands, I’m likely to burn them. It would be foolish of me to blame the flame for my discomfort wouldn’t it? Well, this is what’s happening with all the bold statements about “harmful blue light."
Digital eye strain is like a visual burn out. Our eye muscles get fatigued, our vision gets blurry and it could be as bad as causing headaches and double vision. Thankfully, making small changes to the way you look at digital screens can provide immediate relief and even keep CVS away all together.
Prepare your eyes
The first step should always be a complete eye exam. With 1 in 6 people needing visual aids like glasses or contacts, there is a good chance your vision could use some sharpening. You may not need glasses full-time but even a set of computer/reading glasses could reduce eye fatigue.
The good news is that half of the American population has vision insurance so there is a good chance your eye exam will be covered. Sadly, half of those people with vision insurance don’t use it. If you’re not sure what your benefits are I encourage you to reach out to your HR department.
Once you’ve checked that box you should start implementing what I call “light management." I’ve developed a guide for early morning, afternoon and evening light management. Everyone has a different wake and sleep time so by no means do I expect this to be a universal solution to digital eye strain.
The guide is as follows:
The early morning sunlight should be enjoyed and left unfiltered, as adults we spend most of our time indoors so this may be the most sun you get all day. This light serves as a cue for our mind to “wake-up” and be active. So long as the light isn’t too bright to be uncomfortable, you should go without sunglasses or other blue light filters during this time.
Chances are you’re indoors and in front of a computer monitor at this point. Digital Eye Strain is likely to start after a few hours of non-stop computer work. A combination of lower blinking rates, sitting in a room with recirculated air and a bright light source hitting your face will likely cause eye discomfort.
Before you install blue light software or reach for dedicated blue light filtering glasses you should incorporate regular breaks into your day. The 20/20/20 guide is a good place to start. For every 20 minutes spent focusing on something up close like a computer monitor or phone you should take a 20 second break, taking long blinks and focusing on something 20 feet away or further. This will bring a much needed refresh to your eyes.
Continue with the afternoon suggestions of taking breaks but now you’ll want to also reduce your blue light exposure. Turning on “night mode” on your digital device and computer is a great option but glasses with a built-in blue light filter can also serve you well. Studies have shown that exposure to intense blue light in the hours before bedtime can lead to sleep disruption.
Preventive Care Is More Convenient Than Ever
Yes, it may take some time to establish good screen habits but it’s an investment of effort that will reward you greatly. Seeing your best means you’ll be more productive and less frustrated by the annoying symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
Start by scheduling a complete eye exam and talking to an eye care professional about how to best care for your eyes. XP Health is making this more convenient than ever. Large companies and organizations are able to schedule a week in which a world-class doctor will be onsite with state-of-the-art equipment to provide comprehensive vision examinations. If you need prescription glasses you’ll also have the service of a licensed Optician onsite, ready to assist. All of this and you’ll also be able to utilize your vision insurance.
42% of employees with vision insurance don’t use them. Quality vision exams have never been more accessible and convenient. Start by looking into your vision insurance and learn more about your benefits.
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