Staring at Your Screen All Day? Here's What You Can Do to Protect Your Eyes
Our eyes are incredible organs that allow us to view the world around us. They are constantly exposed to stimulation, yet work efficiently to process all this information. Unfortunately, digital screen time, lifestyle, and aging can cause stress on your eyes. Visible light is defined by how long the wavelengths are and how much energy is produced. The longer the wavelength (Red Light), the less energy is produced and the safer it is. The shorter the wavelength (Blue Light), the more energy is produced and potentially dangerous it is. Blue light comes from digital devices like computer screens, phones, and TVs. Unlike other UV rays that are blocked by the cornea and the lens, most visible blue light passes through and goes straight to the light-sensitive retina. This causes damage that can lead to degenerative conditions and vision loss1. While we are exposed to healthy amounts of blue light from sunlight during the day, excessive exposure from our electronic devices at night can be dangerous. Staring at our phones, TVs, and computers for long periods of time can cause eye fatigue, eyestrain, dry eyes, headache, blurred vision, and difficulty focusing and sleeping1. A Harvard Medical School study found that blue light exposure at night suppressed melatonin production for about twice as long as green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much2. The good news is that there are a lot of different ways you can protect your eyes from blue light: 1. Less Screen Time: You probably spend more time on your phone, computer, or watching TV than you think. A small study conducted by British psychologists found that young adults spend about five hours per day on their phone3. Most of us spend eight hours per day staring at a computer for work, five hours on our phones, and a couple of hours watching TV at night. This adds up to a dangerous amount of blue light you are exposing your eyes to daily. It's important to take breaks by looking away from the screen for 2 to 3 minutes every 15 to 20 minutes. The glare that comes off of digital screens can also affect your eyes, so try to avoid overhead lights and use a desk lamp to control the glare from any nearby windows. They also make blue light blocking glasses that can help filter the blue light. Many smartphones also have blue light filters now. 2. Change Lifestyle Habits:
- Wear Sunglasses: We all know how important it is to wear sunscreen when we go to the beach, but it’s just as important to protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses, preferably with an amber lens, that provide both 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking cigarettes produces cyanide, which is damaging to the eyes4.
- Keep Eyes Moist: Try to blink frequently throughout the day to keep your eyes moist. If you live in an area that is dryer, try using natural eye drops or a humidifier.
- Exercise: Most people don't know that daily exercise can have profound effects on our eye health5. Try to fit in at least 20 minutes per day of cardio (walking, swimming, running).
References: 1. Beyond Self-Report: Tools to Compare Estimated and Real-World Smartphone Use, October 28, 2015 2. What is blue light? The effect blue light has on your sleep and more, August 13, 2018 3. Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness, January 27, 2015 112 (4) 1232-1237 4. Assessment of Proteins Associated With Complement Activation and Inflammation in Maculae of Human Donors Homozygous Risk at Chromosome 1 CFH-to-F13B, July 2015 5. Aerobic Exercise Protects Retinal Function and Structure from Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration, 12 February 2014, 34 (7) 2406-2412