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Screen Hygiene

Desktop computers, tablets, iPhones, Galaxies, Nexus, MacBooks, 4K TVs – our faces are constantly illuminated in the basking blue glow of backlit screens. In a previous Friday Challenge, I proposed a week long screen free time one hour prior to bed. This time, I want to delve deeper into what I will call Screen Hygiene.

Sleep Hygiene is already a big deal – blackout curtains, pre-bed rituals, room cooling, meditation, and nutrition for sleep. A large tie-in to this is Screen Hygiene, which if implemented properly, will improve your quality of sleep and save your eyes in the long run.

Let’s face the truth. Near-work, what I would classify as anything which requires you to focus your eyes on objects within arm’s length, can produce strain and decrease your ability to adjust your focal point. So reading a book, replying to emails, checking your social media, watching videos on your tablet are activities which can weaken the focusing muscles in your eyes.

Before I proceed with my list of essential Screen Hygiene hacks, I must inform you that I’m not a physician. I’m not even that well versed in ophthalmology. To be completely frank, I wear contact lenses and am more than slightly myopic (-3.75 and holding for those of you who like to compare diopter units). I am however, concerned about the negative implications of spending eight hours every day in front of a screen. Thus, here’s my list of things you can do to promote good screen hygiene in relation to eye health.

I’ll start the cheapest, easiest to implement methods:

1. Blink. Someone once told me that blinking was like an car wash for your eyes (and not the automatic ones that scratch your car).

2. Gazing. This one seems a little odd, but take some time to look away from your screen. Scan the horizon; observe the colours of the houses on a hill in the distance. We spend most of our hours doing near work. Keep your eye muscles strong and shift their focus further than 20 feet. This arbitrary measurement is the distance at which the doctor’s old school eye chart is supposed to be read at. Remember, you’re not day dreaming, you’re gazing.

3. F.lux. This is a free background computer application which changes the warmth on your screen. Based on your latitude, the colour of the screen will change from a bright blue at noon to a warm, orange at midnight. This is a great place to start if you think that looking at a bright screen all day is affecting your sleep. Here’s the link.

4. Blue Blocker Eyewear. Originally used by trades workers and outdoor enthusiasts, blue blocker eyewear absorbs the blue end of the visible spectrum (450-500nm). These glasses will do the same thing as F.lux, but all the time. Great for use at night, they cut glare and can block the overly bright blue light when you’re driving.

5. Mind your resolution and refresh rate. Before LCD screens were commonplace, a time when CRT monitors were the norm, we were all told to set our refresh rate (the rate at which the screen shows the image data it is pulling) at the highest setting. This was to ensure that flickering did not occur. Most LCD monitors will present no issues at the stock setting of 60Hz. When it comes to screen resolution, using the optimum setting is your best bet. Changing your screen resolution to the lowest setting to achieve a bigger font may be hard on your eyes. There are other ways to do this.

In the end, the more time you spend away from your screens, the better. However, seeing as most of our work tools involve screens, let’s do what we can to protect our eyes.

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