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Hope Island, QLD, Australia

Eye Health – reducing screen fatigue

The term “Zooming” has now become part of the vernacular as social distancing protocols mean in-person meetings give way to virtual meetings. Under lockdown it is not only work but school, social lives, entertainment, shopping and news which are all being fed through screens.

While technology has many positive aspects, including allowing people to continue to work from home, the prolonged use of digital devices during home isolation raises a new concern for those fortunate enough to avoid COVID-19 – screen fatigue and digital eye strain (computer vision syndrome). Digital eye strain, which contributes to deteriorating eyesight, is an emerging public health threat and is directly proportional to the duration of digital screen exposure. It results from prolonged computer, tablet, eReader and cell phone use.

Human eyes are not designed to stare closely at two-dimensional images for long periods and this can lead to eye issues. Too much screen time can cause headaches, eye strain, dry eyes, tiredness, eye irritation, blurred vision and reduced productivity. Not only does staring at a screen for hours every day cause eye problems but it is also psychologically taxing and can leave people feeling tired and frustrated.

Here are some tips to manage screen fatigue and digital eye strain effectively:

Work habits:

  • 20-20-20 Rule: take a 20 second break, every 20 minutes, to look at a distant item that is a minimum of 20 feet (six metres) away. This helps the eyes to relax and refocus.
  • Space clients. Do not schedule video appointments back-to-back.
  • Swap screen time for green time. Take a quick walk outside between appointments, barefoot on grass if possible. Research has shown that reconnecting with the earth’s electrons, by walking barefoot on grass, has physiological and psychological benefits. The practice is known as earthing or grounding. Stretch during these breaks.
  • Keep eyes moistened by taking breaks to blink.
  • Limit unnecessary screen time such as using a pen and paper to take notes.
  • In virtual meetings hide the self-view on the screen to give the brain  one less thing to focus on.
  • When possible use a phone instead of using a screen.

Eye care:

  • Get a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist before regularly working on a computer and get regular eye checks at least once a year after that.
  • Blue light is one of the spectrum of colours. Natural blue light comes from the sun. Artificial blue light comes from digital devices and lights like LED. Blue light filtering glasses and screen protectors are popular solutions to improve eye strain symptoms and relieve discomfort, although there is limited evidence to support this. Research has shown that only extreme and sustained exposure to blue light may damage eyes.

Work environment:

  • Modify workstations to improve posture.
  • Work in a well-lit room.
  • Adjust settings for computer display including text size, contrast, brightness, colour temperature and camera height.
  • It is through the five senses – hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch – that humans perceive the world. In virtual meetings there is an overload of hearing and seeing but an underload of the other senses so to balance it out invest in a space clearing spray and/or an essential oil diffuser (avoid anything containing artificial fragrances and consult a qualified aromatherapist for pure oils), apply a hand cream, prepare healthy food, drinks and snacks for busy days at the screen, ring a bell between appointments to signify stopping.
  • Incorporate plants and natural elements in the workspace. 

Lifestyle:

  • Eat a healthy diet of nutrient dense whole foods including fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens.
  • Avoid processed foods. Many fruits and vegetables that are yellow and orange contain high levels of beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which are converted into Vitamin A, which plays a crucial role in vision.
  • There is evidence to suggest that diets rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, obtained from food sources or supplementation, may have ocular benefits. Eat flaxseeds, walnuts and wild-caught cold-water fish such as
    salmon, trout and mackerel.
  • Lutein is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the eyes from oxidative stress triggered by exposure to digital devices. Excellent sources of lutein include leafy greens, asparagus, green beans, eggs and dark blue and red fruits, especially berries.
  • Eliminate refined sugar from the diet. Excess dietary sugar is linked to multiple eye diseases.
  • Avoid nicotine and excessive alcohol.
  • Keep hydrated with filtered water.
  • Prioritise good sleep.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation.
  • Seek help from a professional if needed.

Herbs for eye health

Oxidative stress and inflammation can contribute to the development of eye diseases so the use of herbs that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may benefit overall eye health.  Contact us for advice on suitable herbs.

Music to read to: Jamiroquai – Virtual Insanity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsBBJ0IxvW4

The prophetic 1996 song Virtual Insanity, by British funk band Jamiroquai, set out to warn us of the danger in becoming too immersed in our digital lives and not connected enough to the real world.

Written by Christine Thomas, Herbalist and Technical Writer, July 2021