Extended staring at a computer screen inevitably creates fatigue, tension and eye problems. Failing to take short vision breaks is one of the major factors leading to eye strain and eye problems for computer users.
Micro vision break tip: Look up and focus on the furthest object in the distance. Be aware of objects around you in your periphery. Take a deep breath. Relax as you exhale. Blink a couple of times. Shift your vision back to the screen and re-focus. (Three near-to-far shifts per break are recommended. This should take about 5 seconds.)
Mirror tip: If your computer is in a corner or if you work in a small space, place a small mirror on top of your monitor or on your desk. Use the mirror to give your eyes a distant view by looking through the mirror and focusing on objects that you see behind you.
3. Minimize glare on the screen.
You can detect a potential glare problem by turning on the lights in the room that you normally would use - before turning on your computer. If you see any images or reflections on the (turned-off) screen, you've got a glare problem.
To reduce or minimize glare, experiment by:
- Moving the screen to a better location, if possible
- Tilting the screen
- Moving objects that reflect onto the screen
- Covering windows to block sunlight
- Turning off or lowering offending lights
- Covering fluorescent lights with egg-crate baffles
- Turning your computer so the screen is perpendicular to overhead fluorescent lights.
It may be impossible to eliminate glare altogether, in which case you might consider using an anti-glare screen.
4. Use friendly lighting.
Bright fluorescent lights are a poor choice. Dimmer lights are better. Have a desk lamp for reading and doing other close work at your desk, but make sure it doesn't reflect on the screen.
Most problems are caused by the quantity of the light (not by fluorescence itself). If possible, turn off every other fluorescent fixture and light your desk with a 100-watt bulb.
Standing lamps that direct light at the ceiling provide the best indirect light. If there is no dimmer available, a 3-way fixture is recommended so you can set the light at the most comfortable level.
You also need to light any original copy that you are working from. A desk lamp with an adjustable neck works well. Just make sure that this light doesn't distract you or spill onto your screen.
Hard copy tip: Ideally, you want your copy on the same vertical plane as the screen. Working side to side is preferable to looking from the screen down to your copy and then back up again. Alternate moving the written material that you work from to the left and right of the screen during the day. The eye movements required to shift back and forth from left to right and from screen to copy help reduce visual stress and enhance your visual skills.
5. Blink more often.
Computer rooms are notoriously dry, and this may be one reason why your eyes hurt at the computer. Blinking is your body's natural way of lubricating your eyes and preventing dry eyes. Normally the eye blinks 10-12 times a minute.
Most people do not blink regularly, especially when concentrating intently, or when under pressure. They keep their eyes wide open - fixed - and blinking decreases. Decreased blinking often causes redness, burning and itching of the eyes, particularly for those who use contact lenses.
Blinking lubricates and cleanses the eyes, keeping them moist for clear vision and comfort. Blinking also helps relax the facial muscles and forehead, countering the tendency to furrow one's brow and create tension.
Hydrate by drinking enough water. If absolutely necessary, use a natural eye drop. Similasan or PrimaVu are the recommended brands.
Blinking tip: Move only your eyelids - not your forehead, face or cheeks - when you blink. Make sure you close your eyes all the way without effort and that both the upper and lower lids touch gently. Blink lightly once every 3 to 5 seconds. Or, take 10-20 blinks in this way just as your eyes start to feel dry, tired or itchy.
These five tips should be enough to keep you from feeling eye strain at the computer. It could be very simple to not let your eyes hurt at the computer.
But sometimes these tips are not enough. The causes of the blurred vision and visual stress might go deeper. Make sure you have your eyes checked at least once a year, and make sure that you are using the correct prescription for computer use - it's not always the same as your regular prescription.
The book Total Health at the Computer goes into more depth about healthy computing tips, choosing the right kind of glasses for computer use and quick routines that will stop your eyes from hurting at the computer.
For more information, visit www.bettervision.com.