You're wasting your time and hurting your eyes...
The average American works about 38.6 hours each week.
But that's not what we spend most of our time doing...
According to a recent survey, the average person spends more than 50 hours per week consuming media from a screen.
All that screen time takes a toll on our eyes.
The main culprit? Blue light. We've warned you before about the problems with blue light, which include sleep disruption and human hormone production.
That's because people experience a much higher response to blue light than other wavelengths. Blue light triggers specific photoreceptors on the back of the eye – the retina. These specialized receptors mediate how much melatonin we produce... And exposure to blue light means you may not produce enough of it.
It gets worse... There's evidence that too much blue light damages our eyes. It causes eye strain at best and triggers macular degeneration at worst. Macular degeneration is a condition that leads to permanent vision loss. (You can read more on my thoughts about this terrible condition here.)
Here's the problem... Blue light is everywhere.
It's emitted from the sun, man-made light-emitting diodes (LED), and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs with even higher blue-light levels than one might expect. Even digital displays on things like alarm clocks give off blue light.
But more than other lights, we get most of our blue-light exposure from our electronics. Every time we glue our eyes to a flickering screen, we're taking in blue-light waves... That includes televisions, computer screens, tablets, and cellphones.
And since many of us spend hours in front of a computer these days, all that screen time leads to something called Computer Vision Syndrome, or "CVS." CVS causes symptoms such as eye strain, irritation, redness, and dryness. It can also lead to blurred or double vision.
But there are ways to protect your eyes:
1) Have a good balance between the light from your display screen and ambient light. Fluorescent bulbs and too many outside windows can cause annoying glare. If you can't adjust these much, try an anti-glare coating for your screen.
2) Adjust the display on your screen. Do what I do and play with the contrast, brightness, and resolution based on the ambient light until you're comfortable. You can also change your refresh rate (see our "What We're Reading" for links on how to do so).
3) Change the color temperature of your screen or even add a blue-light filter. This helps cut some blue light. Newer machines now come with blue-light filters, often called "night shift" or "night light." I have my screens automatically go to blue filters at around one hour after sunset. In the summertime, I set them to start at 9 p.m.
4) Pay attention to how you sit. Here are some basics for good computer posture:
- Your eyes should be about three feet away from the screen.
- The middle of the screen should be about six inches below eye level. Have a friend or spouse check you out to see that you're at the right height.
- Keep proper posture with a good, supportive chair.
- Your elbow joint should be about 90 degrees while you use the keyboard. And perhaps use a wrist rest.
5) Try eye drops. Another reason we feel eye strain is from dryness. It turns out that almost everyone blinks much less when we stare at a screen or intently read things. In fact, it's about one-third as often as our usual blinking rate. Set an alert for every hour or so to remind yourself to blink.
My senior analyst Matt reads so intensely, he occasionally uses eye drops to fight off dry eyes during the workday. If you want a good eye drop, follow these rules...
- Get dry-eye formulas only. Itchy or red-eye formulas contain extra chemicals that won't help.
- Avoid too many ingredients... The simpler, the better.
- Avoid anything with preservatives, especially benzalkonium chloride (BAC. This chemical not only causes cell damage, it also triggers allergic reactions in some folks.
- You'll want something with glycerin or carboxymethyl cellulose. Keep in mind these make the drops a bit thicker in consistency, so you'll need to find one that's comfortable for you.
6) Follow the "20-20-20 rule." Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away or more, for at least 20 seconds. Looking away gives a break to the muscles that focus on objects up close. It's something my researcher uses with success. And doing it daily, and often, like I do, can keep your eyes "in shape" and prolong the natural ability to see without glasses.
Taking care of your eyes sooner will keep them healthier in the long term. If there's any history of eye disease in the family, make sure to get a thorough eye exam every once in a while to check for vision problems, especially if you have diabetes or a family history of glaucoma.
What We're Reading...
- How to turn on your blue-light filter.
- Something different: Turns out, anyone can hallucinate... no drugs needed.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
September 5, 2017