If you’re like me, you spend a LOT of time in front of the computer. I work, shop, chat with friends, watch videos and pay bills from the comfort of my desk. Is staring at a computer screen for a long time bad for your eyes?
Can Staring at a Screen Too Long Hurt Your Vision?
The good news is that using your laptop, tablet or smartphone isn’t going to hurt your eyes. You don’t have to worry about a screen ruining your vision or making you need a stronger prescription. Those are all myths.
It’s still important to take good care of your eyes, though. Bright screens can cause dry eyes. Many people experience eyestrain, or tired eyes, after a long workday. Some people even get headaches from this. There are times when my eyes feel like sore grapes!
Why Can Staring at a Screen Cause Eyestrain and Dryness?
One reason screens make your eyes feel uncomfortable is that they slow down your blinking. Blinking is essential for keeping your eyes hydrated and clean. Normally, you should blink at least 15–20 times per minute. But when you’re staring intently at a screen, you only blink half that much! This can make your eyes really dry, especially after using a computer for hours.
Bright screens can also make your eyes exhausted — literally. Whether you’re absorbed in a book or shopping online, the tiny muscles around your eyeballs are constantly moving. Your eyes have to focus over and over, similar to how a photographer adjusts a camera lens.
Like any other muscle, eye muscles can get tired, too. After a while, focusing gets harder and concentrating on words requires a ton of effort. That’s a sign you’ve pushed your eyes too far. They need a break, just like how your feet want to kick back and relax after standing all day.
How Can You Prevent Eyestrain?
Follow these tips to protect your eyes:
- Avoid screen glare: Some newer screens have an anti-glare coating. For extra protection, you can buy a cheap ($10) matte screen filter for your computer. If you wear glasses, another option is to get an anti-reflective coating for your eyeglasses.
- Turn down screen brightness: A screen that’s too bright can tire your eyes out more quickly. Turn down brightness as much as possible while making sure reading is still comfortable.
- Increase the text size: Most apps let you adjust the size of words on the screen. Making text bigger doesn’t have anything to do with age. It’s about reducing eyestrain. Larger text is just more comfortable. Trust me, I kicked the settings up a few notches and it made a huge difference for my day.
- Take a break every 30 minutes: If possible, stop what you’re doing every 15–30 minutes so your eyes can rest and rehydrate. Get up, grab some water, eat a handful of almonds or check on your pot roast. Then, go back to writing your novel or working.
- Don’t sit too close: For a computer screen, position your chair so your eyes are about two feet away. For a tablet, hold it at the distance you would a book.
The solution to dry eyes and eyestrain isn’t to use eyedrops constantly. That's actually a bad idea. Prevent CVS instead by making life easier on your eyes. You can still use your laptop or tablet whenever you want; just remember to blink more and take more (healthy) snack breaks!