Previous research reveals that around half of the people who use computers for their jobs suffer from eye strain, such as irritation, dryness, headaches, or blurred vision.
Sitting in front of the computer for extended periods of time can take a serious toll on your eyes.
However, researchers from Aston University have recommended that people should adopt the 20-20-20 rule if they use their computers a lot.
This strategy involves taking a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes, while regularly blinking the eyes.
The authors of the study explain that this approach can help ease some of the eye symptoms associated with continued computer use.
Phillip Yuhas, OD, an assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, told Health “Each blink helps refresh the tear film on the ocular surface. The more blinks that one makes, the healthier his or her tears will likely be and the more comfortable computer work will become.”
We normally blink our eyes around 15 times per minute, but while staring at a screen, this number drops to around half that rate or less – this can increase the risk of eye fatigue, dry eyes, and eye redness which is caused by computer related eye challenges or digital eye strain.
“Digital eye strain exists—this is a real thing,” Mina Massaro-Giordano, MD, co-director of the Penn Dry Eye & Ocular Surface Center and a professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, told Health.
According to Fight for Sight 38% of people in the UK who used screens more often during lockdown believe their eyesight has been affected as a result, the Mirror informs.
For the study, special software was involved – it was used to track the gaze of 29 participants for a period of two weeks, measuring eye symptoms before and after trying out the 20-20-20 rule.
Participants in this study were all supposedly experiencing some form of eye strain.
The special software was downloaded onto each participant’s laptop and the computer’s camera was used to check if they were sitting in front of the screen, so as to monitor their gaze direction after every few seconds.
A pop-up message would appear on the screen every 20 minutes as a reminder telling the participants to rest their eyes for 20 seconds.
The message could only be removed after the ‘rest session’ was completed.
The researchers measured eye strain symptoms before and after two weeks of using the 20-20-20 method. They also measured eye strain, one week after the study was over.
It was found that there was a decrease in eye strain symptoms, including discomfort, dryness, and sensitivity. The findings are published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye.
Professor James Wolffsohn, Professor of Optometry at Aston University, who led the research in collaboration with the University of Valencia, is reported to have said, “The one previous study merely asked people to carry out the suggestions, but here the access control on the software meant we could be sure that participants really had looked away every 20 minutes. We saw a consequent improvement in the symptoms of the group as a whole.”
“Enabling the 20-20-20 rule reminders had a significant impact on how participants used their computers,” the researchers said, noting that participants took more breaks during the day. These breaks, according to researchers, likely helped ease the participant’s digital eye strain symptoms.
However, it was found that after the study, participants’ eye symptoms largely regressed back to what they had been before the intervention.
As a solution to this issue, professor Wolffsohn adds, “We are planning to conduct longer-term studies to see whether we can teach eyelid muscle memory impulses to blink more often during digital viewing, to help mitigate this chronic issue without long-term use of reminders.
“Although we used sophisticated software, it’s easy for others to replicate the effect by setting a timer on their phone or downloading a reminder app.
“It’s a simple way of reminding yourself to take regular breaks for the good of your eyes.”