With a new school year starting, now's the time for students to be proactive about protecting their vision. Here are the 6 best ways to reduce computer eyestrain.
1. Choose the right lighting. The room where a computer is used should be evenly lit. Too much light from windows or other direct light reduces screen contrast, making it more difficult to read words or numbers. Closing window shades or using fewer lights can help. Some computer users find standard fluorescent lighting too harsh and are more comfortable using "full spectrum" bulbs which closely resemble natural light. Since vision varies from person to person, finding the right lighting may take some experimenting with different bulbs and lighting angle.
2. Cut the glare. Avoid aiming a desk lamp directly at the computer screen to eliminate glare. Even stark white walls can create a distracting reflection. If practical, paint walls a darker color with a matte finish. Eyeglass wearers can have lenses treated with an anti-reflective coating to decrease the amount of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of lenses.
3. Control screen settings. Use system or monitor settings to adjust brightness, contrast and text size. For most, the ideal combination is black text on a white background in type large enough to avoid squinting or leaning in to read, typically twelve to fourteen point.
4. Consistently blink and take breaks. Computer users naturally blink less when looking at a screen and that's part of the problem. Blinking moistens the eyes to reduce dryness and irritation. Another problem? Not taking breaks. Make a conscious effort to take four to six mini breaks every hour or two. For five minutes stand up, stretch, relax the neck and focus on a distant object to give eyes a rest.
5. Correct posture. Slouching in a desk chair, or worse lying in bed, affects where the eyes hit the screen. Sitting up straight at a desk in an ergonomic chair with both feet flat on the floor is the ideal. The screen should be a comfortable 20-24 inches from the eyes, or approximately the length from your middle knuckle to the elbow. Schoolwork often requires looking back and forth from a printed page to a screen, causing additional eye and neck strain. Remedy this by placing printed pages on a well-lit copy stand.
6. Consider computer glasses. Designed specifically for looking at a screen, computer glasses have a special coating to reduce glare and a tint designed to eliminate eye strain. They're available in both prescription and non-prescription lenses.