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By Dr. Amy Cheng and Dr. Michelle Ly
As technology advances and becomes more integrated into our everyday lives, many of us are spending more time on digital devices such as computers and cell phones at work and during our free time. These electronic devices emit a significant amount of high frequency blue light and may put you at risk of experiencing eyestrain, headaches, and poor sleeping patterns.
With increasing use of LED lights and digital screens – TVs, computer monitors, tablets, and smartphones – a lot more high energy blue light is entering our eyes. This results in dryness due to infrequent blinking, digital eye strain from the brightly lit screens, and changes in the circadian rhythm (our 24-hour sleep/wake cycle). Studies show that blue light emitted from screens acts on our bodies in a similar manner as sunlight, which boosts alertness, helps memory and elevates mood. At the same time, exposure to increased blue light at night suppresses melatonin production, which is a hormone released by the brain to promote sleep. When most people cannot sleep, they tend to watch shows, browse social media, or catch up on work on digital devices. This perpetuates the cycle of poor sleeping patterns. Although studies do not show that blue light causes direct damage to the eye, there are some possible negative effects.
Thankfully, there are several ways you can protect your eyes. Traditional yellow-tinted computer glasses increase the contrast on digital screens, making it more comfortable to look at the monitor for extended periods of time. Eyeglasses can be made with a clear coating that helps block the amount of blue light that enters the eye. Some contact lenses come in designs that reduce digital eye strain. Also, there are apps available for computer, tablets, and smartphones that adjust the blue light levels according to a pre-set schedule that matches ambient lighting. Most new smartphones have a “night mode” that allows you to manually alter the colour scheme of the screen. Blocking out artificial light helps to keep the circadian rhythm normal and improves sleep quality.
PROTECTING AGAINST DIGITAL DANGER
Combat dry eyes and fatigue with these useful tips.
When our eyes are constantly glued to our digital devices, discomfort and blurriness can occur. Here are some tips to fight the effects of too much screen time.
REMEMBER TO BLINK
Our blink rate decreases from approximately 12 times per minutes to five times per minute when we are using electronic devices or really concentrating on a specific activity. This can result in dryness, discomfort and even blurry/ distorted vision. The most important part is to make sure you are fully closing your eyes while blinking. Research shows that partial blinking at a faster rate is the same as if you were barely blinking at all.
Every 20 minutes, focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Taking regular breaks from our electronic devices allows our eyes to relax and reduces strain throughout the day. You can set an alarm to remember to take these regular daydream breaks. There are also computer programs, such as Google’s eyeCare, that can give you scheduled reminders.
INVEST IN YOUR VISION
When updating your next set of lenses, invest in a good anti-reflective coating and blue light filter. This filter helps absorb high-energy blue light being emitted from our electronic devices and decreases the amount transmitted into our eyes. As a result, the feeling of strain and fatigue in your eyes is reduced.
OPTIMIZE YOUR WORKSPACE, MAXIMIZE YOUR VISION
- Keep your computer at an arm’s length distance and slightly below eye level (15-20 degrees).
- Match the brightness and contrast of your electronic device to your surroundings.
- Minimize sources of glare on your screen. Position the computer so that natural/diffused lighting is on either side of your workstation. Light should not be directed in front or behind your screen.
- Remove all dirt and dust from electronic screens to increase clarity.
- Blue light being emitted from our devices at night can disrupt our circadian rhythm and melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. The best way to avoid this is to put down your devices and say good night to technology two hours before bedtime.
COOKING WITH EYE FOODS
Drs. Laurie Capogna and Barbara Pelletier are two optometrists from Niagara Falls, Ont., who have written a book called A Food Plan for Healthy Eyes. Go to their website, eyefoods.com, for recipes with foods that contain lutein, zeaxanthin and omega 3 fatty acids that promote eye health.