These days we are staring almost all day long at different types of digital screens and because of that we are more and more exposed to the damaging blue light (high-energy visible light \ HEV) that can influence our sleep, productivity and even our vision.
From the moment we wake up in the morning, we check our phones, then at the office we stare at a computer screen for at least a few hours and finally when we get back home to relax in front of another screen regardless of whether it is a TV, tablet or computer. For example, a graphic designer spends at least 8-9 hours each day in front of a computer screen.
Although we often realize that these screens are affecting us to some extent, few are the ones who take action to protect their eyes.
A back or shoulder pain from a wrongly chosen chair or a tired liver from too many hours of work can be treated relatively easily, but a damaged eye is much more complicated to be treated and involves many risks. The eyes problems caused by digital screens are called by specialists the “Computer vision syndrome” or “Digital eye strain” and symptoms may include blurred or double vision, light sensitivity, dry eye, fatigue and headaches. Although many times it is presented as a common condition and rarely serious, some studies suggest that bright light and blue light can damage your retinas irreversibly. Longer exposure to blue light could lead to age-related macular degeneration.
Just a few simple steps can help us to prevent or at least ease this problem.
1. Use Special Computer Glasses
Regardless if you wear or not eyeglasses, it’s a good idea to make a special pair of glasses with treated lenses to protect your eyes from the damaging blue light emitted by all digital screens. You can buy your glasses from Gunnar, or choose another company and use some well-known lenses like for example Hoia, Zeiss or Essilor.
2. Position Your Monitor Correctly
Keep a good posture and center your computer monitor directly in front of you to at least an arm’s length away from the screen. Level the top edge of the screen with your eyes so that you look a bit down at the center of the screen and also make sure to avoid any glare by positioning your desk correctly.
A good website with some useful tools to help you arrange correctly your computing environment is Ergotron.
3. Use Bias Lightning
When working in a dark room, a bright screen can cause eyestrain. To eliminate this problem, it is enough to install a simple light bulb behind the computer monitor. For more comfort you can also use it for your home TVs. More about bias lightning you can read on HowToGeek.
4. Adjust Your Screen Brightness and Color Temperature
Your monitor screen brightness should match the brightness in your environment. It should blend with your surrounding brightness and not be too bright or too dark.
Your screen color temperature also plays an important role. Although a cold color temperature helps to increase concentration and give a high alert state, at the same time can cause eye fatigue. It can also influence your sleep and even long-term vision. So the warmer/yellower the light, the better for your eyes.
THERE ARE TWO WONDERFUL WINDOWS PROGRAMS THAT CAN HELP YOU TO QUICKLY ADJUST YOUR MONITOR SCREEN BRIGHTNESS AND COLOR TEMPERATURE
- F.Lux software is very useful, easy to use and should not be missing from any computer. The screen color temperature can be changed manually or automatically and it also has a very useful function for desktop computers that lets you adjust the brightness of the screen rapidly by just pressing two keyboard buttons (Alt+PageUp and Alt+PageDown).
The previous “version 3” (3.10 or 3.12) was more minimalist as some would prefer, but the actual “version 4.xx” comes with a few more options. It is very likely that in the beginning you will not like it because of the warmer color temperature (default, in automatic mode), as all digital devices come calibrated by default with cold color temperature. Because of that it may seem a bit unnatural to you at first sight, but you can make a lighter transition by manually adjusting the color temperature. Give it a few days to get used to it and then, when you’ll disable the application you’ll see the real difference for your eyes. You can download the software and read more about it on F.Lux website.
- PangoBright software is also a very lightweight and simple to use software that will provide you a quick access by an icon in your sys tray. Just drag the app icon to Start -> All Programs -> Startup to make a shortcut for the software so that way it will automatically start with your computer. You can download the software and read more about it on PangoBrigh website.
Mobile devices also have some useful functions that give you the option to use warmer colors for your screen. For android devices activate the “Reading Mode” in Settings -> Display and add all your apps to it. For Apple devices from IOS 9.3 you can activate the new “Night Shift” feature by going to Settings -> Display & Brightness.
5. Use Black Background and Bigger Text Everywhere is Possible
White text on dark background is better for your eyes and you should setup this way all your devices.
For example, in windows 7 you should switch your theme from your actual theme to “High Contrast Black” and then go to “Windows Color” to change a few things for optimal view as the default “high contrast” themes are not that easy on the eyes.
IN THE “WINDOWS COLOR AND APPEARANCE” WINDOW YOU CAN CHANGE THE FOLLOWING:
- 3D Objects -> Color1 (Red-192, Green-192, Blue-192)
- Active Title Bar -> Size (23), Color1 (Red-20, Green-20, Blue-20), Color2 (same as color1), Font: (Arial), Size: (11), Color: (Red-201, Green-201, Blue-201), Bold.
- Active Window Border -> Size (1), Color1 (Red-5, Green-78, Blue-131)
- Application Background – > Color1 (Red-14, Green-14, Blue-14)
- Border Padding -> Size (2)
- Caption Buttons -> Size (20)
- Desktop – > Color1 (Red-39, Green-39, Blue-39)
- Disable Item – > Color (Red-139, Green-139, Blue-139)
- Hyperlink – > Color (Red-31, Green-155, Blue-203)
- Icon -> Size (33), Font: (Arial), Size: (11), Bold
- Icon Spacing (horizontal) -> Size: (43)
- Icon Spacing (vertical) -> Size: (43)
- Inactive Title Bar -> Size (20), Color1 (Red-39, Green-39, Blue-39), Color2 (same as color 1), Font: (Arial), Size: (11), Color (Red-139, Green-139, Blue-139), Bold
- Inactive Window Border -> Size (1), Color1 (Red-23, Green-23, Blue-23)
- Menu -> Size (20), Color1 (Red-23, Green-23, Blue-23), Font: (Arial), Size: (11), Color (Red-192, Green-192, Blue-192), Bold
- Message Box -> Font: (Arial), Size: (11), Color (Red-205, Green-205, Blue-205), Bold
- Palette Title -> Size: (20), Font: (Arial), Size: (11), Bold
- Scrollbar -> Size: (19)
- Selected Items -> Size (20), Color1 (Red-29, Green-79, Blue-129), Font: (Arial), Size: (11), Color (Red-210, Green-210, Blue-210), Bold
- ToolTip -> Color1 (Red-29, Green-29, Blue-29), Font: (Arial), Size: (11), Color (Red-151, Green-221, Blue-255), Bold
- Window -> Color1 (Red-39, Green-39, Blue-39), Color (Red-205, Green-205, Blue-205)
It should look like in the photo above. Finally, you can save your new theme and then go to: “C:\Users\YourUserName\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes” to back it up to another location.
For firefox browser you should use the best add-on where the colors are not just inverted like many other ones. You can install it from here and then just make a few settings like the following:
GO TO PLUGIN OPTIONS AND FOR THE “STYLESHEET PROCESSOR” ADD THE FOLLOWING COLOR CODES:
- Default foreground color: #CDCDCD
- Default background color: #272727
- Default link color: #66C9EE
- Default visited link color: #787878
- Default active link color: #7D0000
- Default selection color: #0080C0
The alternative for chrome you can find it on google webstore, although the one for firefox is a bit better.
Also, for quick access to increase the text size for certain websites you can install a zoom addon/extension for firefox or chrome as some of them retain the zoom settings for each site you visit.
Don’t forget to do the same for your ios/android devices by installing the firefox browser with the above add-on or dolphin browser that has a native “night mode” function.
6. Remind Yourself to Take Breaks and Blink More Often
When you concentrate on something on your computer you don’t blink as much as you normally do and that can cause your eyes to dry out. Each time you blink, your eyes clean and moisten themselves.
Artificial tears can also help to keep your eyes moist. Just do a little research in your area to find the most natural ones that mimic the qualities of natural tears.
Nobody will follow the 20-20-20 rule, but at least take a break at every 60 minutes for a few minutes to look off into the distance through a window and maybe you can also stretch a bit while doing so. You may think you don’t have a few minutes to spare, but you’ll be more efficient this way and not to mention, healthy.
We need to pay more attention and do everything we can to protect our eyes. The more steps from the above list we make, the more protected we are, keeping our eyes healthy for a longer period of time.