By now, you’ve probably heard all about how bad the glaring blue light from your smartphone and computer screen is for your sleep cycle. These claims are true, BTW, which means if technology has the power to creep inside your brain and mess with your internal wiring, there’s no doubt in my mind — or science’s findings, for that matter — that screens are bad for your eyes. I’m not trying to be the bearer of bad news here, or in any way play the role of mom or dad telling you to get off your phone, but putting scrolling on pause for a few hours can only benefit you in the long run.
Considering just how many studies are being published on the dos, don’ts, and how-tos of technology, it’s getting significantly harder to hide from the truth: Screens can do some serious damage to your body if you aren’t using these devices properly. And no, I’m not referring to how to turn them on or off; I’m talking about how much time you spend fixated on these screens, and the potential safety precautions that can help protect your eyes, because yes, it is that serious.
Focusing on screens all day every day is extremely harmful to your eyes, and it all goes back to that pesky blue light.
Technology has so many pros, but it’s easy to forget about that one, blaring con: blue light. In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, Erik Ritchie, chief commercial officer at online eyewear market Zenni Optical, says overexposure to the blue light emitted from every digital screen you come in contact with can cause “eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision” — aka nothing good.
What’s even more problematic is just how much our world relies on screens today. At the risk of showing my age, I can remember a time when the most high-tech device my family owned was a clunky desktop with dial-up internet. These days, computers aren’t solely used to look up information or type documents, and a phone isn’t just a tool for communication.
Smart technology feeds you an endless stream of entertainment and news sources, and most people are glued to their phones and laptops throughout the day. On the one hand, screens are necessary to get your work done quickly and efficiently, but your eyes are working twice as hard to protect themselves from the inevitable long-term effects. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA), anyone who spends "two or more continuous hours" focusing on a digital screen every day is at risk of developing what is now referred to as "computer vision syndrome," or digital eye strain.
You’ll know if and when digital screens are starting to affect your eyes, because the warning signs are hard to miss.
According to a Nielsen report from 2016, it was estimated that adults spend more than 10 hours per day on digital devices, soaking in all that blue light, and squinting to absorb the tiny font on the websites they scroll through. Now, going back to AOA’s study, if only two hours attached to a screen puts you at risk for digital eye strain, a lot of people — maybe even you — could have something to worry about.
On the bright side (no pun intended), the warning signs that mean your eyes are being affected by this are pretty easy to spot. For example, according to ophthalmologist and laser eye surgeon Dr. Ming Wang, M.D., Ph.D., blurred vision is a violently waving red flag to watch out for: "The strain of focusing for close activities can cause the eyes in some people to lock into near focus," he tells Elite Daily, which can then lead distance vision to become blurry, and eventually cause near-sightedness.
Another warning sign to be aware of, Wang says, is sleep deprivation. Daylight, he explains, leans toward the blue end of the spectrum, so if you're scrolling through Instagram under the covers to make you feel sleepy, you're actually telling your body it's time to be alert and productive, rather than relaxed. If you've ever fallen down the rabbit hole of endless liking, retweeting, and pinning for hours into the night, now you know why it's so easy to lose track of time: because your eyes, and mind, are wide awake, all thanks to that blue light.
Lastly, Wang notes that when you concentrate on a screen, your eyes don't blink as much because you're actively staring at the device in front of you. This can lead to irritated eyes, and symptoms such as "redness, watering, and blurred vision," he tells Elite Daily.
Before you toss your smartphone, laptop, and e-reader in the trash, there are ways you can have your screens and keep your eyes healthy, too.
I'm not going to suggest you go on a permanent hiatus from all forms of technology, because in the world we live in, it's basically impossible to avoid screens entirely. The good news is you can co-exist with digital media and still have healthy eyes; it just takes a little extra effort on your end.
Exercise keeps your body healthy, right? Well, it's high time you commit to a regular workout routine for your eyeballs! Ritchie shares a foolproof method with Elite Daily called the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes or so, take a 20-second break from your screens, and focus your eyes on something 20 feet away from you. This will "relax your eye's focusing muscle," as well as "reduce eye strain and fatigue," Ritchie explains.
Another way to amplify your eye health, Ritchie says, is to make yourself blink: "The average person blinks an average of 15 to 20 times each minute," he tells Elite Daily. The problem is, when you're focusing on a screen, that number plummets by nearly half, Ritchie explains. By making sure you're regularly blinking, you keep the eyes moisturized, "guarding them against bacteria, dry eyes, and other irritants."
My personal favorite way to protect your eyes from heinous screen damage is super stylish: eyewear that prevents eye strains. Take Felix Gray, for example (the latest item I've added to my wishlist). This collection of frames was designed to beat eye strain with style and comfort, inspired by people who were tired of the headaches and blurry vision office computers provoked. But, if specs aren't your thing, no big deal; there are screen protectors you can veil over your device for optimal protection, no matter how long you scroll.
Of course, the most reliable way to protect your eyes from screen damage is to take a break from technology. Unplug after work and get some fresh air. Read a book, grab a coffee with friends, or do some yoga. Your eyes are tired from long days in front of the screen; they deserve a little R&R, too.