Lifestyle – Alastair Lockwood, eye health advisor for Feel Good Contacts and ophthalmologist discusses how the pressure to be always online is causing insomnia, migraines and digital eye strain
As a result of firms moving towards a culture of home working, their employees have move towards a culture of digital device dependency. Gone are the days of face-to-face internal team meetings and external client meetings, gossiping in the staff kitchen and lunches with colleagues. This has all been replaced by Zoom, Facetime and social media catch-ups. No one wants to feel isolated, but it’s also important not to get burnt out by the need to be ‘always on.’
With this increase in digital consumption comes the associated fatigue, eye strain, headaches, neck/back/shoulder pains and sleep cycle disruption associated with the blue light emitted from digital devices.
What is blue light?
Blue light is a colour in the visible light spectrum that can be seen by human eyes. We are exposed to natural blue light from the sun as well as artificial sources from modern lighting and digital screens.
Is blue light good or bad?
The natural blue light from the sun makes you feel perky and is vital for regulating your sleep and wake cycles. At night, when there’s no natural blue light, this tells our brain that it’s night-time and our brain releases melatonin, so we feel sleepy.
It’s the blue light from artificial sources that can affect our health. This light has more blue wavelength light in it than other colours on the spectrum so when you look at a digital device, your eyes are receiving more unbalanced blue light than they would from other light sources. Blue light has the shortest wavelengths and highest frequencies. Therefore, the light is more prone to scatter, causing haze and blur on screens, and requires more focus. This can lead to dry eyes, digital eye strain (computer eye strain), fatigue, headaches and insomnia.
Blue light glasses
Blue light blocking glasses have been specially designed with lenses to filter out and block the unwanted blue light given off by digital screens. Wearing blue light glasses can help reduce the effects of exposure to blue light.
Can you get prescription glasses with a blue light filter?
Yes, you can get blue light blocking lenses for your prescription glasses. During the manufacturing process of your lenses, a special coating can be applied to block the blue light.
Can you wear blue light glasses all day?
There’s a common misconception that blue light lenses cannot be worn all the time. However, this is incorrect, and they can be worn all day.
What else you can do to minimise the effects of blue light?
Take a break
I recommend taking regular screen breaks and if you have 5-10 minutes spare, try some eye yoga.
Another simple tip is to blink more. When you’re deeply focused on a task, you tend to blink less, even if you don’t realise it. If you’re not blinking enough, your eyes are not receiving regular hydration and moisture from your tears. As a result, your eyes will begin to feel dry and irritated. Get into the habit of ‘resting your eyes’ by looking away and closing them purposefully. The eyelids are great protectors with lots of moisturising glands on the inside. I always follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. If your eyes are feeling particularly dry and uncomfortable, use lubricating eye drops.
Make sure that your lights are not too bright or too dim as you may have to squint to see, and this will cause headaches and eye strain.
Keep your screen at arms-length
It’s important that you’re not too close or too far from the screen. Your overall workstation set-up plays a role in your eye health, so being too close or far will cause eye strain. I recommend positioning monitors at least 50cm from eyes with the centre of the screen about 10-15 degrees below the eyes. That way, the light won’t be so intense, and you won’t be craning your neck.
Watch the brightness of your computer screen
It’s a good idea to check the brightness of your computer screen. If it’s set to the highest setting, turn it down slightly and see if it makes any difference to how your eyes feel. An incredibly bright screen can be very harsh on the eyes, so you can minimise glare by dusting your computer monitor. Screen filters are also readily available and reduce glare and eye strain from prolonged screen time.
It may seem like a small point, but if you’re straining your eyes whilst at the computer, then it might be worth increasing the size of the text.
Finally, a blue filter on your smart phone, tablet, or computer will reduce the amount of evening blue light exposure.
Regardless of when employees go back to work, it is clear that some measure of work from home is here to stay. Whilst the benefits of working from home are plentiful, you need to make sure there is an end to the working day. Don’t let zoom fatigue set in or give in to the pressure to be ’always on.’ Try and set work boundaries and communicate this to your team. It’s vital to relax after your workday and not keep thinking about work. This is easier to do if you switch off your blue light-emitting devices and ignore your emails from the moment your workday ends.
Try to organise relaxing things to do after work, like going for a walk, reading a book or having a long, warm bath (switch on some music, throw in a bath bomb and put on an eye mask to help you slip more easily into relax mode. Follow these tips, and you will be relieved of your stress and have a good nights sleep.