Last Tuesday, I woke up from a much-needed afternoon nap with bloodshot eyes that could barely open more than halfway. After days of staying up into the early-morning hours and staring at computer screens, it was my body’s way of saying enough was enough. And as someone who values her vision, I decided to listen. I took my contacts out for the night and hit the switch on my computer – and lights – at a reasonable hour.
Vowing to never allow my eyes to get that glossy shade of pink again, I looked into what it is about our screens that makes them so tiring to look at in the first place, and what we can do to get some relief.
Print out long readings. Whether you’re trying to read a seven-page article on an E-Ink device like a Kindle or Nook, or a backlit device like an iPad or laptop, you’re going to notice eye fatigue if you try and do it all in one shot.
The issue with reading on these devices is not necessarily the type of lighting, but that instead of scrolling your eyes up and down the page – like you would with a print-out – you scroll the page on the device and leave your eyes in one place. And just like sitting in one position for too long will hurt your back, leaving your eyes in one position for too long will hurt your eyes.
Reposition the screen. Ideally, the top of your screen should be at eye-level, so that you’re looking down while you work, not up. In addition, keep the screen an arm’s length away from your face.
Remember to blink. Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably forgetting. Do it. Now do it again.
Adjust your screen’s brightness and contrast. Unless you’re trying to get some work done outside on a bright sunny day, your laptop’s brightness probably doesn’t have to be at the highest level. Try and decrease the brightness and contrast until you find the balance that is best for your surroundings.
…And the text size. The first thing I learned in a computer coding class is that if you’re going to be reading a ton of text for a long period of time, the text can never be big enough. Like, ever.
Look away often. At least every 20 minutes, focus your eyes on something besides your screen. Get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, take a walk around the lab – whatever you have to do. And don’t even think about taking your cell-phone with you.
Get rid of the glare. If a nearby window is glaring on your computer screen, shut the blinds or find someplace else to sit. Also, if that glare is shedding light to a fine layer of dust on your screen, it’s time for a spring cleaning. Dust can decrease sharpness, which increases how hard your eyes have to work.
Fix your posture and loosen up. A lifelong dancer, I’m hyper aware of where I’m carrying tension. And after just 20 minutes in front of a computer, you’re bound to see me roll my shoulders, swing my head, and do some obnoxious arm-stretch thing – because, guess what? It helps!
So remember to put your health first and step away from the screen if you catch sight of a glossy gaze in the mirror. Otherwise, put your computer’s bells and whistles to use, and allow them to help you avoid tired eyes.
By Juliana LaBianca
Photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net