Fighting the good fight against technology-induced fatigue… one pair of yellow glasses at a time.
Much as I try to set boundaries for myself, there are inevitably nights — nights such as this — that I find myself working a little too late. Personal projects, emails, Instagram… and yes, maybe a little shopping, too… lead me to stare at a screen for just a little too long. When I do try to turn in for the night, my eyes feel wide awake and sleep refuses to descend. Come morning, even though I may have logged seven to eight hours, my eyes feel dry and my mind feels groggy, it’s as if I didn’t sleep at all.
The effects of too much time spent in front of a computer or phone screen are well documented. Strained neck and back muscles, headaches, eye strain, and fatigue are just a few of the symptoms that often show up, even in those who strictly use those screens during daylight hours. According to The Vision Counsil, nine out of ten people — and 65% of Americans — who use computer, phone, and LED screens report feeling the effects of digital eye strain and the blue light emitted by their devices. While this blue light may be efficient and inexpensive for the companies creating your technology, it’s users like you and me that end up paying the ultimate price. Because that blue light is doing more than just drying out your eyes, it’s actively disrupting your circadian rhythm, effecting your sleep, your mood, and virtually all areas of your life.
Before the advent of electricity and later, computer technology, people largely lived their lives in accordance with the sun. Sun’s up? You’re up. Sun’s down? Our bodies give us the signal that it’s time to turn in, we get sleepy and eventually go to bed. While all light has some effect on sleep and hormone levels, the problem with the blue light omitted by our screens is that it tricks our bodies into thinking it’s daylight when clearly it’s the middle of the night. According to Harvard Health, this blue light is beneficial during the day, giving us energy and making us more alert and productive, at night, it’s a recipe for disaster. Your body can’t differentiate between the real sun and the artificial “sun” shining right into our faces, and it adjusts its melatonin levels accordingly, suppressing the release of melatonin as if it were the middle of the afternoon. As a result, not only are your eyes sore from staring at a screen, but you’re bound for a restless night’s sleep as well.
So what can be done about that nearly unavoidable light emitted from our phones and screens? While the most effective solution would be to cut out all screen time after the sun goes down, that’s not always possible (case in point: it’s 9:30 PM and I’m writing this blog post). My most recent discovery is a little pair of rather silly-looking glasses. With yellow-tinted lenses and a UV-blocking non-reflective coating they’re certainly not cute, but they are effective at blocking out that blue light, relaxing the muscles around the eyes, and increasing visibility at night. After just one use, my eyes feel less tired and strained, I’m able to fall asleep easier, and I feel less groggy in the morning. I’m interested to see how my eyes will feel with more regular glasses-wearing.
While I believe the larger goal should be to impose stricter limits on ourselves in terms of tech usage after hours, we should be doing all we can to protect and honor our bodies while putting this technology to use. Yellow glasses… better boundaries… just a couple of the ways I’m working to protect my valuable vision from strain and protect my body from the damage caused by sleeplessness. What else can be done? I’ve added a few simple tips below for protecting your eyes, be sure to add your own in the comments!
What you can do to limit blue light exposure and get better sleep:
- When possible, turn off all devices one to two hours before bedtime to let you eyes relax. If you have a hard time stepping away create a nightly ritual, like reading or taking a bath, that signals to your body it’s time for bed.
- Be sure to get plenty of bright, natural light during the day. This will ensure your melatonin levels are where they should be.
- Install an adaptive program, like f.lux , on your phone and computer. F.lux adjusts the color of your screen to correspond to the time of day, reducing eye strain and hormone reaction. You can disable it for a set amount of time if you happen to be editing photos or working on something that requires accurate colors, if need be.
- Get yourself a pair of blue light-blocking glasses (I use these) and then use them!
- If your eyes do feel dry in the morning, eye drops will instantly make you feel more awake and make your eyes feel better. Sure, it’s a bandaid on a larger problem, but it’s not worth suffering longer than you have to. Just be sure to use your glasses or shut down earlier next time.
- Take plenty of breaks and do eye exercises. When you stare at a screen your eyes are more susceptible to strain and dryness because they’re not blinking as much and only focusing on one plane. Every half-hour to hour, take a break and allow your eyes to focus on different points in the room so they’re focusing on things close up and far away, adjusting as they should be to different vantage points.
+ How do you regulate the blue light in your life?