More screen time
You may know that staring at a screen all day is not particularly good for you, and that it’s a good idea to give your eyes a rest and limit your screen time. This includes your phone, laptop and TV. But, on average, you probably spend more hours than you realise staring at a digital device. With more people working from home, that amount of time is on the rise.
“Covid-19 has put screen time on steroids,” says optometrist, Dr Paul Karpecki. You may have a work-from-home arrangement, chat with friends via video call, do online on-demand workouts, see doctors via telemedicine, and more. We’re online all the time, and there’s an indication hours spent in front of a screen are spiking.
The average adult now spends more than 13 hours per day in front of a screen, up from just over 10 hours in 2019, according to Eyesafe, which designs and develops products that protect against blue light from digital devices. (Karpecki is also a member of the Eyesafe Vision Health Advisory Board.) Eyesafe analysed data from a March 2020 report from the Nielsen Company that estimated that Covid-19 stay-at-home orders would lead to a 60 per cent increase or more in media consumption. Even with lockdowns now lifted, many of those habits established over the last two years have remained.
Too much screen time can lead to digital eye strain, which is a condition that results in eye discomfort and vision problems, according to Eyecare Plus. It’s true that prolonged screen time does increase your exposure to blue light. However, it’s unclear whether blue light is to blame for digital eye strain, or whether products that block blue light help.
You may blink less
You’re more likely to blink less when you’re using electronic devices or even watching TV. Specifically, staring at an electronic screen can affect how often you blink and whether your eyelids close entirely as you blink. A 2015 study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science found people experienced a lower blinking rate and were less likely to completely close their eyes during a blink when reading on an electronic device, like a tablet.
Your eyes will dry out and may burn
As previously stated, when you stare at a computer screen, you blink less. This can make your eyes dry out and even feel like they’re burning. “Blinking keeps the front surface of your eye moist,” says optometrist, Dr Barbara Horn. She suggests increasing the humidity in the air at home and at work (if possible). Also, sip water throughout the day to stay hydrated, a habit that benefits your whole body, including your eyes. And finally, commit to consciously blinking more often during computer work, especially if your eyes are beginning to feel dry. There’s a condition called dry eye, which is when you have inadequate or poor-quality tears. Talk to your optometrist, who may recommend simple solutions like over-the-counter artificial tears.