The life expectancy in Zimbabwe is around 62 years. That means our middle age is in the 30s and as a middle-ager, I can tell you for free, your body starts preparing for the long sleep once you hit the big three-oh.
I recently had to tend to my decaying body. A half-life of staring at screens apparently took its toll on my weary eyes and they requested a timeout.
You probably have an equally demanding schedule, staring blankly at digital screens for no less than 15 hours a day. For most of us, the only time we are not looking at screens is when we are asleep.
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The morning starts with a quick reach for the trusty smartphone. Later on, we trade that small screen for a bigger computer screen and toil away the day. At the end of the day, we treat ourselves to a bit of entertainment to unwind and for that, we trade the computer screen for a larger one.
After the TV session, one sometimes has to do a little reading and that happens on some kind of screen in most cases. Physical books are a relic and we are encountering fewer and fewer of them. Depending on the lighting situation, physical books are just as taxing on the eyes though.
After a few chapters, you decide it’s time to knock off for the night and a little social media sesh on the phone is the preferred lullaby for most of us.
That is way too much screen time. If you don’t take precautions, that kind of screen time will bite you in the rear in due time.
They say if your vision is blurry and your eyes feel dry by the end of the day, you have screen time to thank for that.
Apparently, we don’t blink as much as we normally do when we are staring at a screen. When not looking at screens, we blink about 15-20 times a minute but blink less than half as often when looking at screens.
Blinking spreads tears over the eyes, keeping them from getting dry and irritated. Hence why blinking less is bad for your eyes.
There are nonprescription artificial tears that can help you prevent and relieve dry eyes. However, before resorting to the pharmacy, there are other measures you can take to remedy the situation.
Some home remedies to reduce eye strain
We have heard some of these remedies but hardly do we ever follow them until we get some kind of scare. Don’t be like me, try to make some of the lifestyle changes they say can help reduce eye strain.
Limit screen time
If you can help it, reduce the amount of time you spend staring at screens per day. Try listening to music, podcasts or whatever else you can think of that doesn’t involve eyeball on screen.
Even if you can’t really limit your screen time, you still need to take breaks. There is something called the 20-20-20 rule and it goes like this: every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet (6 metres) away for at least 20 seconds.
You should also take 15-minute breaks for every 2 hours you spend looking at a screen.
To be honest, this all sounds like it would disrupt my workflow and get me out of the ‘zone’ but my middle-aged eyes need it, so it has to be done.
Whatever you do, you don’t want your light source shining directly into your eyes. So, avoid placing your monitor directly in front of a window. You don’t even want to have a white wall directly behind your monitor, it reflects too much light and it can be like a window.
Even for overhead lights, try angling off so that rays from the bulb do not have a direct path to your eyeballs.
Further, you should also note that glare on your screen is just as bad. Some monitors come with antiglare coatings and if you have that, lucky you. If not you might want to invest in matte screen filters.
Still on lighting, you want to match your monitor’s brightness with the surroundings. Your monitor should not be brighter or dimmer than your surroundings. I used to type away in the dark, I preferred a dark room but little did I know that I was just straining my eyes for no reason.
Don’t sit too close to your monitor. Let it be about half a meter away from your face. You also need to make sure the centre of the monitor is 10-15 degrees below eye level.
Adjusting the screen itself
I am a member of the ‘all-things-dark-mode’ cult but as Khalid warned all those years ago, I was playing myself. Dark mode does reduce eye strain but only when you’re in a dim environment, hence why some call it night mode. In bright daylight, you want to keep dark mode off and you don’t want a bright screen in the dark.
We have talked about blue light filters many times. It remains true, blue light fatigues your eyes faster. However, for many of us, the yellow screen that greets you when you turn the blue light filter on is too drastic to work with. Luckily, for most screens, you can now adjust the intensity of the blue light filter. Find what works for you.
The other sin I was committing was that of using tiny type. I would often choose the smallest font size available and for some reason found joy in not having to scroll as much by fitting as many words onto the screen as possible. As if scrolling would kill me. I was straining my eyes for no reason at all.
You should make text larger for easier reading and less strain on your eyes.
Protect your eyes
There is more you can do to reduce eye strain but the above should get you started. Don’t wait till you have to see a doctor to try out the home remedies we talked about.
However, if possible, try to get your eyes checked out, especially if you have been experiencing eye strain regularly.
All the best and remember to blink more.