From screens to sleep: Simple steps to combat eye fatigue

Eye Care

by William White, OD

Jan 25, 2024

Most of us spend a lot of our day looking at screens: staring at a computer monitor at work or school, having late-night scrolling sessions on your phone or relaxing with your favorite show on your laptop. We use screens for just about everything, and our eyes bear the brunt of this busy, screen-heavy lifestyle.

So if you’ve experienced the symptoms of tired eyes—watering, irritation and blurry vision, among others—you’re not alone.

Fortunately, there are several simple lifestyle changes you can make that will reduce eye strain and fatigue and help keep your eyes healthy in the long term.

Common causes of tired eyes

Several factors contribute to tired eyes, including:

  • Needing glasses or having glasses that are not up to date with the correct prescription (also known as an uncorrected refractive error)
  • Excessive amounts of near eyesight work, such as looking at a computer, reading a book or being on your phone
  • Lack of sleep
  • Conditions such as dry eye, allergies or allergic conjunctivitis
  • Losing the ability to focus on nearby objects due to age, a process called presbyopia
  • Rarer conditions like thyroid eye disease or myasthenia gravis, which can begin with symptoms of eye fatigue

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to arrange an appointment with your ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Tips for tired eyes

1. Manage your screen time

Managing screen time can be difficult since screens are often a necessary in many aspects of your life. Although computers, phones and tablets have not been proven to cause direct damage to the eyes, continued focus on a near target will inevitably cause eye fatigue Still, limiting the amount of continuous screen time is key to eye health. Some people find that blue light glasses can help with digital eye strain, but several scientific studies have not been able to find any proven benefit to wearing these.

2. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in allowing your mind and body to recover from the stress of the day. Lack of sleep is likely to negatively impact how well your eyes can change focus or respond to changes in the environment. Lack of sleep may also lead to increased eye muscle fatigue.

3. Change your environment

Your eyes need the right environment to do their work, so make sure your eyes have supportive surroundings. Eye fatigue can be improved by adjusting lighting or avoiding dusty environments. Seasonal allergies are an issue year-round in Texas, so it’s best to avoid outside activities when allergens are high. Over-the-counter allergy eye drops like olopatadine can be helpful.

4. Try the 20-20-20 rule

The 20-20-20 rule is a relaxation technique that can help reduce feelings of tired eyes for people who work on screens for much of the day. Take a 20-second break from the computer, phone or book every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away. This helps you rest your eyes before fatigue sets in.

5. Keep up-to-date with your prescription

Having up-to-date glasses is vital for eye health; sometimes just a small adjustment in your prescription can go a long way in reducing fatigue. Many people tell me they didn't realize their vision wasn't as clear as it could be until they came in for an evaluation.

Keep up with your eye checkups

If you wear glasses or are over the age of 65, you should see your ophthalmologist or optometrist every year. If you don’t wear glasses, I recommend booking an eye evaluation every two years.

When did you last have an eye exam? Find an eye specialist near you and make an appointment.

About the Author

Dr. White is an optometrist on the staff at Baylor Scott & White Pavilion - Temple.

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