There’s a high chance that if you’re reading this, you work on a computer for most, if not all of the day. Even if you don’t, there’s still a high chance you’re looking at a screen of some kind for the majority of the day. And that makes you tired. More specifically, it makes your eyes tired. Which them stresses the rest of your body. It’s likely a cycle we all know a little too well. We have steps, however, that can alleviate and even prevent this kind of eye strain so that your job and habits don’t have to negatively impact your overall well-being quite so much.
1. Blink More
Okay, so the actual solution is a little more complicated than that, but in the end, blinking more often can really help prevent eye strain. Even those minute flashes where you’re eyes are covered give your brain a chance to rest. And that time adds up over the day. It’s literally why when you’re strained and stressed that you can simply close your eyes and feel an almost immediate sense of relief. (You can actually tell your boss “I’m just resting my eyes, not sleeping at work” and not be lying!)
Additionally, blinking keeps your eyes lubricated. Not blinking means that your eyes will dry out more often. If that’s something that you’ve noticed bothering you, get some eye drops to keep at your desk to moisturize them often. While that is just treating a symptom of the eye strain rather than rooting out a cause, relief is relief.
Unless you’re sure that you can consciously make yourself blink more often than you normally would (spoiler: you can’t), you need to make a few changes in your workstation and habits. While change can be hard, making these changes won’t be. They’re both simple and easy. Many of the other tips will cause you to blink more often as a by-product, eliminating multiple stressors at once.
2. Change Your Font Color, Size, and Family
If you’re a content creator or web developer, you probably know that what font you choose makes a drastic impact on how much eye strain you endure. Many font families are not ideal for constant and repeated use. What looks great in a screenshot or is fine for a 3-minute-read article might not work for an 8 hour shift of programming or writing. Choosing a font other than Arial or Helvetica (blasphemy, we know) might make more of a difference than you know. The kerning, spacing, and even shape of various fonts can increase readability and make it so that you don’t have to work as hard to decipher the characters.
Fonts such as Fira Code, Consolas, and Monoid are designed specifically for long-term usage, legibility, and prevention of eye strain.
On top of that, color and size (both independently and in concert) can be one of the largest factors of preventing eye strain. If you have a high-resolution monitor, there’s a good chance that your default font size is pretty small. On top of that, a lot of what you’re reading online and in other places might be low-contrast (light text on a light background). When this is the case, our eyes have to work overtime.
So to fix that, you don’t have to lower the resolution of your screen. No one wants you to give up your screen real estate. Instead, increase the default font sizes in your OS, your code editor, and adjust different web pages in your browser to accommodate larger text. (Usually CTRL/CMD and +/- will do the trick.)
3. Turn Your Brightness Down
This one’s tough for some people, us included. Whether it’s a phone screen, laptop, or the circle of computer monitors you have around you, the brightness is probably way too high. While doing so absolutely makes the colors pop and the whole experience generally much more aesthetically pleasing.
But it also strains your eyes at an accelerated rate. You will need to find the balance of brightness that works for you. If the monitors are like lamps in a darkened room, you might have a problem. But if you’re straining to see and the OS appears dim and dull, you’ve gone to far the wrong way. Once you find the right brightness, though, your eyes will be much better off.
Also, if your office or workspace has fluorescent lighting that reflects off of your monitor, you can get screens and filters that you can affix to it so that you can eliminate external brightness and glare, too.
4. Dark and Reader Modes
You also have access to Dark Mode in a lot of apps to make reading easier, and adjusts the brightness on a software level. MacOS and iOS even have them built in. This gives you a darker, less-bright screen with a decent contrast ratio of lighter text on darker backgrounds. It’s easier on the eyes in both daytime and in darker environments. We highly suggest working this way. Dark mode has saved everyone at Elegant Themes a lot of money on headache medicine over the years.
You can also try programs like Dark Reader to make any website or app appear in dark mode, whether they support it natively or not. Also, most browsers (mobile and desktop) have a “reader” mode where the text size, font, and color palette are adjustable with other non-essential elements not rendered. Take advantage of these tools. Your eyes will thank you.
5. Consider Your Posture
Where you are in relation to your screen plays a pretty big role in eye strain, too. Not to mention muscle strain and shoulder/neck aches. You want to be looking at your monitor front-on at eye level. Or, well, slightly below. You shouldn’t have to look up or down to see it. Your neck should be neutral. Keep this in mind when working on a laptop because you’re going to have your head titled down a lot of the time. Not only is this bad for your posture, most screens have a slightly different look from various angles. Colors shift a little, glare hits it differently, and so on.
You will also want to make sure you’re the right distance away from your monitor. You ideally want to be between 20 and 27 inches away from your screen. It differs from person to person because of monitor size and setup. Generally, though, you want to be able to just reach out and touch the screen with the tip of your finger from your neutral sitting position. If you keep it at this distance, you should be able to take the entire screen into view and not have to search all around for points of interest, saving your eyes motion and wear.
Sitting too close to the screen won’t make you go blind, unlike what our parents told us when we were kids, but it can make your eyes work overtime. And that leads to easily preventable eyestrain.
6. Use Everything Anti-Blue
While the jury (read: science) is out on just what effect blue light has on your health and eyes and sleep, the evidence does point toward limiting your exposure to it as being good for your eyes. Most phones these days have a “night mode” which effectively adjusts the color temperature of the screen after certain hours. You can generally adjust them for any hours or intensity that works for you. It may seem a little odd warming up your screen’s overall tone, but you get used to it quickly, and it does make long hours of looking at the screen easier and less taxing.
Additionally, there are blue-light filters that you can hook to your monitor like the anti-glare ones we mentioned above. You can buy special “computer glasses” that supposedly filter out the light, too, which are fine if you wear contacts or don’t need glasses. For those who need prescription lenses, however, you can ask your eye center about getting the lenses covered in an anti-blue light coating that does the same thing. And bonus, sometimes that coating even makes your eyes flash purple to some people. (No kidding. It’s very surreal for them.)
Eye strain might not sound like a big deal, but anyone who deals with it can tell you just how intrusive it can be. If you have never experienced it from spending too much time in front of a screen, consider yourself lucky. But be proactive about making sure that you don’t. And if you’re a constant sufferer like many of us, it only takes a little effort and a few tweaks to make some high-quality adjustments that will make a big difference in your overall wellbeing.
What have you done to prevent computer eye strain?