It’s quite elementary: When you stare at something at close range for long periods of time, the muscles in your eyes get tired. Exhausted, really. As with any other sore muscle, the discomfort is temporary and will subside when you peel your gaze away. But why let your eyes get that worn out in the first place? Try these quick proactive tweaks from top doctors.
1. Sit further away
Aim to be about 50 to 60cm from your computer screen. At arm’s length, you’ll squint less, which means fewer headaches and less eye strain, says neuroscientist Dr Jim Stringham.
2. Dim the lights
And close the shades: Bright lights and sunshine reflect off the monitor and back into your eyes, irritating them. On your devices (laptop and computer), download an app, like f.lux, that removes the blue light from your device and reduces eye strain. And that night-mode light on your phone? Leave it on always, says optometrist and Mellins i-Style regional manager, Meriek van den Berg, it zaps blue light too.
3. Enlarge the text on your gadgets
Words on the screen are made up of pixels with blurry edges; our eyes have to work harder to read them, which can lead to eye strain. The text you’re looking at should be three times the smallest size that you can read from your normal viewing position.
4. Use the 20-20-20 rule
Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet (about six metres) away for 20 seconds. “It relaxes the eye muscles and reduces symptoms of pseudomyopia, a temporary difficulty switching your focus from near to far,” says optometrist Dr Monica Nguyen.
5. Lube up
If your eyes are burning or dry, apply over-the-counter artificial tears without preservatives (which can cause more irritation) every two to three hours. If they don’t provide relief, ask your doctor about a prescription.
6. Visit the doctor annually
Yes, even if you’ve never had eye problems before. She can spot issues such as short-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism, and prescribe lenses or glasses to correct or treat the issue before it worsens. The eye doctor can even detect diabetes and high blood pressure!
7. Eat your spinach
In a 2017 study, people who took a daily lutein and zeaxanthin supplement (the equivalent of two large bowls of spinach a day or five 200g weekly servings) for six months reported 29% less eye strain, 28% less eye fatigue and 34% fewer headaches than a placebo group. Turns out the retina sucks up these nutrients and uses them to filter out damaging blue light, according to Dr Stringham.