How often do you come home from a day in the office feeling drained, even though you’ve done nothing physical all day? Your muscles ache, your head is pounding and you have no idea why. Well, the answer could well be eyestrain. Staring at a computer for hours on end isn’t just bad for your eyes; it affects your whole sense of wellbeing.
In the long-term, eyestrain could lead to myopia (also called short sightedness or nearsightedness) but this doesn’t happen to everyone. Optometrists have no way of predicting who will and who won’t be affected. James Sheedy, a professor at the Pacific University College of Optometry in Oregon admits “We are not very clever in identifying who [is affected] yet”. But even without permanent damage to your eyesight, eyestrain can still make working days miserable and evenings a write-off as you lie in a darkened room, trying to avoid any lights.
So, how do you avoid it? First thing is to check how far away your screen is. Too close and you’ll have to squint, too far away and your eyes have to work harder to read it. It’s all to do with the ciliary muscle, which controls how we focus. Too much time staring at a screen means this little muscle has no time to rest. It’s the equivalent of holding a plank all day long. By that, I mean the yoga position, not a plank of wood…though both would hurt. Without the rest periods, the muscle gets overworked and that’s when headaches kick in. Adjusting your screen to a comfortable distance helps to rest the muscle occasionally.
Blinking also helps. It seems crazy that we have this built-in process for helping with eye strain and we don’t use it! We normally blink 20 times a minute, which helps spread moisture over our eyeballs, but when using a computer it drops to about 7 times a minute. The corneal surface dries out and becomes foggy, which impairs vision further. It seems like such a simple action but we obviously don’t do it enough.
Another simple thing to do is just to take a break. Go to the water cooler (keeping hydrated will also help your sense of wellbeing and counter the effects of the office heating system). Go and get a coffee, or better yet, step outside for some fresh air. Run some mail down to the mailroom yourself instead of waiting for it to be collected. Any excuse to get away from your screen for a few minutes and let your eyes relax.
Are your eyes going fuzzy as you’re reading this? You know what to do. Blink, drink and go off for a think!
Until next time,
Peace, love and vitamin C!