Researchers estimate that 60 – 90% of people who work on digital devices experience at least some of the above symptoms, which is not surprising. The seemingly simple act of focusing your gaze is far more complicated than most people realize. In fact, a larger portion of the brain is dedicated to processing visual images than to all other sensory input (hearing, taste, touch and smell) put together.
How Does Screen Time Affect the Eyes?
Physical activity supports optimal health, as true for the eyes as for the heart, brain and other organs. Like any other part of the body, exercise helps your eyes stay healthy – but in their case, a workout involves changing direction and shifting focus from near to far and varying distances in between. Spending hours seated and looking at a fixed object keeps the muscles in your eyes in a continual state of tension; the glare of the screen adds yet more strain. Also, you blink less when you focus on a fixed point; this, in turn, reduces the volume of tears your eyes produce, leading to dryness that is irritating and uncomfortable.
What to Do?
Here are some tips that can help keep your eyes healthier and happier.
- Sit about an arm’s length away from your computer monitor; it should be at the same level as your eyes, so you don’t have to look up or down to see. If you find it hard to see at this distance, use reading glasses and/or change the font size on your monitor so it is more comfortable.
- Adjust the brightness setting on your monitor so your screen is lit in approximately the same way as the rest of the room.
- Use a desktop humidifier and have eye drops on hand to prevent dry eye. Blink!
- Try to shift focus regularly, which gives your eyes a mini workout. Ophthalmologists recommend what they call the “20-20-20 rule.” Approximately every 20 minutes, look at something that is about 20 feet away, for about 20 seconds.
Yoga for the Eyes?
A recent study reports that a combination of easy eye exercises and what’s called pranayama breathing improves vision and reduces eye fatigue. Here’s how it works:
The breathing technique: For anywhere from two to five minutes, breathe in normally and then exhale through your nose, with a series of short, rapid breaths. Contract your stomach muscles with each exhalation.
Exercises to do during your pranayama breathing:
Rub your palms quickly together to generate heat. Close your eyes. Cup your warmed-up palms over your eyelids, blocking all light and gently crossing your fingers over your forehead. The darkness and warmth will relax your eyes.
Visualize your face as the center of a large clock. Keeping your head still, shift your eyes as though they were gazing at 12 o’clock, leaving them there for three pranayama breaths. Move to three o’clock, six o’clock and nine o’clock, each time repeating the breathing for three breaths. Now do the same exercise counter-clockwise.