A few years ago, I noticed a problem with my eyesight. I was having difficulty seeing objects close to my face, with the most notable issue being that I could not see the food I was forking into my mouth. I visited an optometrist, and after an examination and various tests, she asked me, "How old are you?" When I replied that I was 40, she responded, as if with a slap to the head, "Ah, that's it. Most men start to become farsighted when they turn 40."
So, while age may be one of reason for my new-found need of reading glasses, studies continue to show that our exposure to computer and smartphone screens may also be having a detrimental impact on our eyes.
Solana Health has created WhatIsDryEye.com, a site started in an effort to educate consumers of the issues of dry eye syndrome and macular degeneration. The group recently published an infographic highlighting the problems with the light emitted from our electronic screens -- blue light. In addition to causing blurred vision, headaches and burning eyes, blue light can can wreak havoc on your sleep and focus.
Does this imply that we need to get rid of electronic devices altogether? Not likely. Instead, a regimen of good eye habits will help reduce the problems associated with binge watching Netflix on a screen that fits in your hand.
1. Exercise your eyes.
Your eyes, like any other muscle, need exercise. Luckily, exercising your eyes does not require the physical exertion of a triathlon. Instead, take a break from your screen at least every 20 minutes, and give your eyes an exercise routine. Simply moving your eyes around, looking at something distant and close, closing and massaging your eyes, and repeating this five to 10 times can give your eyes the exercise they need (with no sweat).
2. Take your eyes on a walk.
Exposing your eyes (and your mind and body) to daylight will help synchronize your natural circadian rhythm. In addition to giving your eyes a break from the screen, natural light helps your sleep cycle and will even improve your mood and alertness. More important, it will reconnect you with nature and offer you a chance to tap into your creativity.
3. Adjust your eyes and your settings.
Explore settings on your digital devices and try different font sizes, screen contrasts and brightness, until you find a balance that is easy on you and your eyes. Consider also using an anti-glare screen and alter the distance you hold your phone from your face to force your eyes to focus from different distances.
4. Invest in your eyes.
A friend once told me, "It is amazing that people will drop a few hundred dollars on a night out with friends, but they won't make that same invest, one time, to protect their eyes." That week, I made the investment in a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses, and I have never looked back (pardon the pun). More important, understand that cheap sunglasses can actually cause you harm, as they dilate your pupils while letting in harmful rays.
Also, if you work on a computer or look at your screen for a good part of the day, consider a pair of blue-light reducing glasses, such as those at Felix Gray. While you may not need glasses (yet), you can reduce the strain from blue light while looking sophisticated at your desk or reading your next email.