The research is in, and it has confirmed what you probably already know to be true: Staring at computer screens is awful for you.
If you’re lucky enough to not have a job that requires you to stare at your computer all day, you’re probably ahead of the game.
However, for the rest of us, here are seven signs you might need to tone down the eye-frying, brain-melting and screen-staring:
1. You wake up with headaches.
If you wake up every morning with a headache, chances are it might be from eye strain.
Eye strain headaches feel like someone is in your head, yanking your eyeballs further back into your skull. They’re caused by constantly staring at something bright, like a computer screen.
Try turning down your screen's brightness to relax your eyes. You can also move your eyes around in big circles to stretch out the optic nerves behind your peepers.
2. Your eye is twitching.
Have you ever spent a day with an inexplicable twitch in your eyelid? Did you spend that whole day rubbing it and hoping no one could see it in the meeting?
Eye twitches happen because your eyes are tired from staring and focusing. They also happen if you’re not getting enough sleep, or if your sleep cycles are being interrupted.
Which brings me to the next point...
3. You look at your phone right before you go to sleep.
Go to bed. You don’t need to check Instagram one more time (You got three more likes, congratulations; it can wait.), and you don’t need to check your email.
In fact, if you have a job that sends you important emails when you’re about to go to bed, you should consider finding a new place of employment.
Try reading a book or listening to some calming music. You should ease into sleep, not force yourself into it after knocking out 12 levels of Angry Birds 2.
4. You check your phone first thing in the morning.
This habit is probably the hardest to stop, at least for me.
Your alarm goes off on your phone; you roll over to stop it, and all of a sudden, you’re reading some texts, a couple New York Times notifications and an email from your boss asking where you were last night when he was frantically sending you 2 am emails.
It’s hard not to start your day by catching up on the notifications that came in while you were sleeping, so try this: Get an alarm clock, a real one.
Stop using your phone as your alarm. Then, when you charge your phone overnight, keep it away from your bed.
It may seem like a small change, but after you wake up, not instantly staring at a screen can dramatically improve your day.
5. You consider reading on your tablet a “break from screens.”
What do you do when you can finally tear yourself away from your computer and phone? If your answer is reading on a tablet, then you haven’t really gotten anywhere.
Tablets are still bright screens that can cause eyestrain. iPads and e-readers that light up are no different than staring at a computer.
Try reading a paper book. (They used to be made out of paper.) If it’s news you want, pick up a real newspaper or magazine.
Help save the dying medium of print journalism while you help save your eyes.
6. It’s also how you spend your free time.
If you’re like me, when someone asks you what you do in your free time, you have no idea what to say. You’re either surfing through Reddit, watching Netflix or doing both at the same time.
It’s time to get a hobby, a non-screen related hobby. Go for a walk. If you can’t bear to be without your phone for 10 minutes, go for a walk and listen to music or a podcast.
Draw something; paint something; do a puzzle. It doesn’t matter. Just figure out something to do for an hour that doesn’t involve pixels.
That way, when people ask what you do in your free time, you also sound a lot more interesting.
7. You’re still reading this.
If even one of these applies to you, the only question to ask is, what are you still doing here?
I mean, come on, you’re staring at a screen reading about the dangers of screen-staring. Look, I’m flattered you read my entire list, but it’s time to close the laptop, lock your phone and do something else.
There’s still time left in the day not to be a boring, dead-eyed screen zombie. Go. Go now.
If any or all of these pertain to you, it’s time to break away from the screens.
If your job requires you to stare at a computer all day (mine certainly does), try to take breaks throughout the day. Just stand up and walk away for a minute. It can do you a world of good.
Also when you get home, try not to spend the entire night in front of the TV or your phone.
There are screens everywhere these days, and if we’re not careful, we can really hurt ourselves by engaging with them too much.
I understand it’s hard to get away from them, but if you try, you’ll be happy you did.