How Digital Eyestrain Affects Your Vision, Your Sleep & Your Spine
Minimizing the Negative Effects of Digital Devices.
March is National Save Your Vision Month and this year’s focus is on digital eyestrain, specifically on blue light’s impact on your overall health. It’s no secret that we’re in front of screens more than ever before – the average American spends seven hours per day using digital devices – and it’s important to be aware of how it affects our overall health and well-being. Survey data shows that while 88% of us know that digital devices can negatively affect their eyes, only about half realize that over time extended screen time can lead to permanent eye damage, sleep disturbances, neck and shoulder pain, and negative effects on your overall health.
Digital Eyestrain Syndrome
Digital eyestrain syndrome, or computer vision syndrome, is a universally recognized disorder characterized by blurry vision, headaches, difficulty focusing, and dry and irritated eyes. And because eye strain often leads to adopting abnormal neck posture and head tilt, neck and shoulder pain aren’t usually far behind.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone, as 61% of office workers report similar symptoms from long hours in front of a screen.
While eliminating your computer screen probably isn’t an option, there are steps you can take to minimize the effects. Ask your optometrist about strain-reducing lenses with special glare-reducing coatings that are specifically made for computer work. They can even be incorporated into your normal frames. Additionally, try practicing the 20-20-20 rule: after 20 minutes of exposure to a digital device, take a 20 second break by looking at something at least 20 feet away. And finally, remember to blink.
Shining the Light on the Effects of Blue Light
The biggest factor contributing to digital eyestrain is blue light, which is a high-energy, short-wavelength color in the visible light spectrum. Natural blue light produced by the sun boosts alertness, helps memory and cognitive function, elevates mood, and helps us modulate our sleep cycle.
But electronic devices like cell phones and computers, as well as fluorescent light bulbs and LED lights, are exposing us to tons of extra blue light. Our eyes don’t provide enough filters on their own to protect from all these high-energy, potentially damaging wavelengths. Not only does extra blue light contribute to digital eye strain, but over time this can lead to retinal damage and even macular degeneration.
Research has also shown that extra blue light (especially at night) significantly suppresses melatonin production and alters circadian rhythms. Interference with the body’s 24-hour circadian rhythms can lead to problems with the cardiovascular, metabolic, and immune systems, disturb mood, and compromise cognitive function. When your circadian rhythms are out of whack, you think, feel, and perform below your best.
Combating the Effects of Blue Light
- Ask your eye care professional about UV-blocking sunglasses and blue light filters for your indoor glasses.
- Adjust your computer or phone’s built-in display temperature settings (or use a third party app like F.lux) to decrease the amount of blue light they emit.
- Keep screens away from your face at night. It’s one thing to relax in front of the television for a while during the evening, and quite another to be on your phone until you fall alseep. Give yourself an electronic device cut-off time.
Get your eyes checked during National Save Your Vision month, evaluate your work environment, increase the display temperature on your devices, and pay attention to the effects too much screen time might be causing in your body. Being proactive with your health now can save you from problems in the future!