Thursday, April 7, 2011

Screen reading and eye-strain

Our eyes are designed to view reflected light, not to look into a light source for hours on end. Hence one of the reasons we get eye-strain staring at our computer screens all day long. Dedicated e-reading devices like Kindle have tried to solve this problem by developing electronic ink, rather than use back-lighting, to better mimic the experience of reading text from the page of a book. 

Unfortunately most of us are stuck in front of back-lit computer screens for hours each day and that's going to lead to eye-strain. For tips on how to lessen the effects, check out this column from the always helpful ProfHacker blog at the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Change Your Focusing Distance

Spending too much time at the same focus distance is one of the primary causes of eye fatigue, particularly when you’re focusing at fairly close range. Every 40 minutes or so, look away from your book or computer screen, off into the distance. Then look at something close to you. Alternate for a a minute or so before returning to your work. This exercises the muscles in your eye and prevents the buildup of tension.

Blink More

Studies have shown that computer users tend to blink much less frequently than people doing other tasks. Blinking helps lubricate the surface of the eye with tears, washing away dust and other irritants. Consciously reminding yourself to blink at intervals during the day will help relieve dry eyes.

In addition to simply blinking more frequently, pay attention to how you are blinking. If you blink too quickly, you may not be fully shutting the lid and allowing the tears to spread over the surface of the eye. A few times a day, take a minute or two to slowly and thoughtfully close your eyelids all the way and keep them closed a fraction of a second, a bit longer than a regular blink. Open your eyes. Repeat a few times. It may feel awkward, but that’s because we are usually not aware of the blink mechanism until we have a problem with it.


One of the best ways to relieve tired eyes is to practice palming:

  • Rub the palms of your hands briskly together for a minute to warm them up.
  • Close your eyes and cup your hands over your eyes (your palms should not directly touch your eyelids). Feel the warmth seep into your eye socket.
  • Relax for a minute or two, letting the darkness and warmth refresh your eyes.

For more tips and information, click here.


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