Work, Zoom happy hours, Netflix, online shopping — my digital dependency has reached new heights since social distancing started, and so have my screen-time headaches.
"Screens can definitely trigger headaches, as well as a constellation of symptoms collectively called digital eye strain," Dr. Rudrani Banik, M.D., a neuro-ophthalmologist with New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, explains.
That's why I'm calling for a lesson in screen-time etiquette — starting with how far you should be sitting from your computer.
"Ideally, one should sit at arm's length — approximately two feet — from the screen, but this is not a hard and fast rule," Dr. Banik says.
Distancing yourself from your screen is a great start for getting ahead of headaches, but Dr. Banik says that your screen, font size, and vision play roles in adding or subtracting from her two-feet rule.
Dr. Banik says that your computer's blue light, screen height, brightness, and contrast can contribute to digital eye strain, too. So, she's offering up other best practices for avoiding headaches while spending long hours on the computer.
Prioritize Proper Ergonomics
Along with distancing yourself from your computer screen, Dr. Banik suggests keeping your monitor slightly below eye level.
"If you are looking slightly down at your computer, this exposes less of your eyes and prevents them from drying out, as opposed to if you have to continually look up at your screen, [where] your eyes are more exposed," she says.
Adjust Your Settings
Dr. Banik suggests heading over to your computer settings to adjust your screen brightness, contrast, and font size to your comfort level.
You can also download a screen filter to your computer, which Dr. Banik explains can internally reduce your device's blue light.
"The best one I've found is called Iris, which adjusts the blue light from your screen to match the cycle of natural sunlight depending on your time zone."
According to Dr. Banik, the average person blinks about 15 times a minute, but when we're looking at a screen, we blink only three to four times a minute. That's why frequent blinking and eye lubrication are key to improving dry eye, which is a major contributor to digital eye strain.
"Use the 20/20 rule: set your timer [for] every 20 minutes [as a reminder to] take a 20-second break by closing your eyes," Dr. Banik says.
With your eye doctor's permission, she also suggests over-the-counter lubricating eye drops to help prevent dryness or scratchiness. Keeping a humidifier close to your workspace can help, too.