For many of us, eye strain is a nagging issue that makes it challenging to carry out our day-to-day responsibilities. Most busy parents, business professionals, or active on-the-go people just chalk it up to not getting enough sleep, but there’s plenty of other factors that play a role in causing eye strain.
So, let’s discuss some of the most common causes of eye strain, plus five simple ways to give your eyes a break.
What is causing your eyes to strain?
Glued to your smartphone, tablet, and TV
We’re all guilty of this one! Whether it’s social media, YouTube, addicting apps, or the latest Netflix series that we can’t stop binging, we often forget just how much time we spend looking at our electronics on a daily basis. But, while we’re busy keeping ourselves entertained, we’re also exposing your eyes to blue light that emits high-energy light wavelengths from the screens of your favorite devices.
In the same way that loud sounds are straining to our ears, blue light exposure is often described as harsh visual noise that not only causes eye strain and fatigue, but also affects retinal cells and overall macular health.
Prolonged computer use at work
Just like other electronics, blue light exposure from computer screens are just as likely to cause aching eyes. But unlike our phones and go-to entertainment devices, computer use is often required in the workplace for many people. So, if you’re stuck staring at spreadsheets, emails, and Skype messages at your 9-5, your computer screen could be the reason why your workday feels like a drag.
Another factor to consider is that many laptop screens and PC monitors aren’t color-calibrated properly, if at all. That means brightness, contrast, RGB levels, and saturation settings are disproportionate by default, which can often cause an eye-straining glare effect after prolonged viewing.
Lighting and weather conditions
Electronic devices aren’t the only culprits of eye strain, as insufficient lighting conditions play just as much of a role. That’s because many high-efficiency bulbs are typically used for light fixtures at home and in the workplace. Commonly known as cool or bright white bulbs, these types of lights are known to cause sensitivity, strain, burning, and dryness. The combination of straining light bulbs and our high usage of electronics can make it doubly difficult for our eyes to catch a break!
What about natural light, you ask? Just like with man-made devices, mother nature’s light sources have a few drawbacks as well. As much as we all love some fun in the sun, UV rays and oxidative stress are known to affect overall eye health if we don’t have a good pair of UV-protecting sunglasses to wear. Plus, weather conditions like cold or windy weather might dry out the eyes, as would climates that aren’t particularly humid.
How can I take better care of my eyes?
By now, it wouldn’t surprise us if you felt like those factors seem unavoidable. After all, you can’t just throw out your phone, trash your TV, quit your job, unplug your lamps, close your blinds, or move somewhere warmer. So, what can you do? The good news is, there are plenty of practical ways that you can take better care of your eyes. We’re sure you already know that drinking more water and getting more sleep can help, so here’s a few other nifty “light-hacks” you can consider:
1. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are your new best friends
With so many potential causes for eye strain at home, work, and outdoors, the best way to start supporting your eye health is with Lutein and Zeaxanthin.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are carotenoids, which are macular pigments that the body doesn’t produce on its own. What makes these carotenoids so important is that they’re a natural source of antioxidants that are clinically proven to filter blue light and support overall eye health.
Fortunately, Lutein and Zeaxanthin aren’t hard to track down. In fact, fruits, leafy greens, and vegetables are some of the best and easiest ways to increase your intake right away. For a more comprehensive list of Lutein and Zeaxanthin-rich foods, the American Macular Degeneration Foundation provides a printable cheat sheet that you can find here. If you’re not much of a veggie lover, Lutein and Zeaxanthin are also available in a convenient supplement form as well.
2. Your phone and tablet has features that can help
Regardless of whether you’re an Apple or Android user, smartphones and tablets have come a long way with introducing new features that cut down eye strain. So, here are three settings and options you adjust to make your phone or tablet much easier on the eyes:
- Enable the ‘Night Shift’ or ‘Blue Light Filter’ feature. These settings allow your device to auto-adjust colors to a slightly warmer appearance to reduce blue light exposure.
- Enable the auto-brightness feature as well. This handy feature adjusts brightness based on your surroundings to reduce eye fatigue, not to mention longer battery life.
- Enable ‘Dark Mode’ on your phone and apps (if applicable). Sure, it’s another battery saver, but this darker color for menus and backgrounds make it quite the eye saver as well.
3. Calibrate your TV and thank us later
So, you decided to treat yourself to a brand new TV with all the newest bells and whistles. Hey, we’re not judging. Just be sure to choose the right picture settings to make your viewing experience easier on the eyes.
These days, there’s a lot more to picture settings than the standard brightness, sharpness, and contrast levels you might be used to. LED and OLED televisions also provide options for white levels, backlighting, color balance, and more. Adjusting these settings correctly can help to reduce screen glare, blue light exposure, and excessively vibrant colors that may cause eye fatigue. Rtings.com is a great resource that helps you find expert calibration recommendations for your TV. All you have to do is search for the model number of your TV, and you'll only be a few tweaks away from better picture and easier viewing.
4. Swap out those high-efficiency light bulbs
We remember the days when buying light bulbs was as simple as, well… buying light bulbs. But nowadays, many shoppers have started gravitating to high-efficiency LED or cool-colored fluorescent bulbs to give their living spaces a whiter and brighter appearance. We admit that they're pretty cool, but unfortunately, these sorts of lights are prone to giving our eyes quite a workout.
If you happen to use these types of bulbs in your living room, it might be best to change them out for regular incandescent bulbs. Just like those color tone features on your smartphone, incandescent bulbs give living spaces a slightly warmer appearance to reduce blue light exposure. For your bedrooms, we suggest picking up specialized amber-colored bulbs that are designed to ease you into a more restful night of sleep, not to mention helping your eyes adjust to daylight easier after you wake up.
5. Pick up blue light blocking glasses for work
Although adjusting the picture settings on your electronic devices can help to reduce eye strain, it can’t hurt to have another option handy for when you’re going to work. After all, you can’t exactly calibrate every work computer and replace every light bulb in the office. Kudos to you if you dare to try, though.
If you’re looking for a more simple, portable, and affordable way to limit eye fatigue at your job, try grabbing a pair of blue light blocking glasses instead. At at around $20-$25 a pair, these glasses are designed to filter digital blue light to reduce eye dryness, soreness, straining, stiff necks, and even headaches. Oh, and in case you’re concerned that these glasses look gaudy, don’t worry. You’ll be glad to know that most blue light blocking glasses look quite fashionable.
We hope these tips are a good starting point to help your eyes feel healthier than ever! If you have any questions or comments for us, feel free to leave a comment below. Or, you can reach out to us directly at (800) 940-1972 or via email at Support@ZenwiseHealth.com.