7 Screen Practices for avoiding digital eye strain


As designers in today’s fast-paced world, we spend most of our time working on computers and executing tasks on programs like Photoshop. When not working we are consuming information on the web, communicating with friends and family, or entertaining ourselves.

All of this is done through mobile phones or desktops, making the screens on our devices the most regular objects our eyes have to deal with.

According to eye care research into professions with the highest amount of screen, time designers fall into the category of professionals that spend up to 18 hours on their screens. Spending this much time on screens not surprisingly produces a lot of unwanted sensations on the eyes referred to as digital eye strain.

The three most noticeable forms of digital eye strain include tired, dry/itchy eyes, and loss of sleep.

Tired eyes: Our eyes get tired from having to focus on screens that are always placed close to the eyes. This is bad for them as eyes need a mix of long and short-distance objects to focus on.

Dry and Itchy eyes: Batting the eyelids spreads moisture content around the eyes but this happens less when using devices as we tend to keep our eyes open for longer periods in order not to miss what’s displayed on our screens. The result of this is a dry or itchy feeling due to less moisture in the eyes.

Loss of sleep: we are awake during the day partly due to the intense blue light emitted from the sun which blocks the production of a sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin.

This same blue light is also emitted from screens and we absorb it extensively due to prolonged screen time. This keeps the melatonin hormone from creating its drowsy effect on the body at night and thus makes falling asleep a difficult task. Unfortunately, less sleep means an increase in stress levels which in turn usually leads to other health issues.

Should devices be ditched — of course not. The problem here isn’t the devices themselves but the way we use them as many devices are used under conditions that cause excessive strain to our eyes.

Below are the best conditions under which they should be used to avoid digital eye strain.

1 Lighting

The amount of lighting in the room should be more than what your screen is emitting as the light quantity from any device is too low to be the chief lighting source. If the retina has less light to work with and this goes on for hours you most likely will be saying hello to an eye strain.

2 Avoid blue light

Many screen users subject their eyes to constant blue light emissions from their devices which are harsh on the eyes. Lights with warmer rays are ideal for the eyes because they are more gentle. Some devices let you adjust the color emission to warmer tones and if they don’t have this feature consider getting warm color filters to place on your screen, wearing glasses with warm coatings to serve as filters, or using apps like Bluelight Filter to adjust the light emissions on your device.

3 The 20:20:20 rule

We place screens close to the eyes when using them and if you fall among the designers mentioned above this means screens are right in front of your eyes for a total of 18 hours. Having the eyes focus on only nearby objects is not a good practice and you could shorten this by following the 20:20:20 rule. It goes as follows:

Every 20 minutes take a 20-second break and stare at something 20 feet away to give your eyes a break from staring at nearby screens. There are reminder apps like the Eyecare 2020 that notify you on times to take this break, for those who might be worried about forgetting to observe this regularly.

4 Text sizes

The sizes of the text on devices should be larger than satisfactory. In practice, it means if you can read properly with a font size of 12, then your font size should be adjusted to 14. Using a higher than needed size removes the pressure the eyes go through when discerning shapes

5 Use text with good contrast

Certain color pairings are harsh on the eyes. For instance, bright text colors on bright backgrounds are difficult to discern and bad for the eyes while dark color texts on bright backgrounds are more discernable, thus better for the eyes. This is why most devices render text in black on white background. If you ever find yourself having to stare at the opposite, then make an adjustment or avoid it if you can.

6 Blink more often

Blinking produces and spreads liquid around the eyes which keeps them moist. When consuming content on screens we unconsciously try to keep our eyes open so that we don’t miss anything thereby lessening the opportunity to moisten our eyes and increasing dryness and irritation. So When using screens make the conscious effort to blink more because you certainly aren’t doing it enough.

7. Use screens less and sleep more.

Make conscious efforts to reduce screen time before going to bed. You could make a commitment to keep to a ‘no phone time’ schedule in the evenings where phones are used only when necessary. The goal is to increase the amount of time between when you use your phones and when you go to bed. This will increase the quality of your sleep and give your eyes longer hours for regeneration.

Final thoughts

Design is a visual work that demands we use our eyes and though they are great art pieces painted by blind artists, you most likely wouldn’t feel like you’ve won the lottery if your eyesight deteriorates so have one of this screening practices mentioned above when using your screen.

Note: extended screen time in itself doesn’t directly cause damage to the eyes like blindness but it contributes significantly to eye deterioration which could be a precursor to factors that do cause eye damage.

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