Staring At A Screen ALL Day? Here's What You Can Do To Protect Your Eyes

mbg Contributor By Gerald Cysewski, Ph.D.
mbg Contributor
Gerald Cysewski, Ph.D., founded Cyanotech Corporation and Nutrex Hawaii and has a doctorate in chemical engineering from he University of California at Berkeley.
Staring At A Screen ALL Day? Here's What You Can Do To Protect Your Eyes

Photo by Studio Firma

Our eyes are remarkable organs that allow us to connect with and view the outside world. They are exposed to large amounts of stimulation daily yet work efficiently to process this information without us thinking much about it. Unfortunately, digital screen time, lifestyle, and aging can slow down the eye’s efficiency and cause stress on the eyes. And one of the biggest offenders to eye health is what is known as blue light. In other words: It's time to ask questions about the real consequences of our constant technology use.

Visible light is defined by how long the wavelengths are and how much energy is produced. The longer the wavelength, the less energy is produced (safer), and the shorter the wavelength, the more energy is produced (potentially dangerous). Red light, like from a heating lamp, is an example of a long-wavelength, low-energy light. Blue light, from digital devices like computer screens, phones, and TVs has the shortest wavelengths and is therefore the highest energy. Blue light is damaging to the eyes because, unlike other UV rays that are blocked by the cornea and the lens, virtually all visible blue light passes through and goes straight to the light-sensitive retina, causing damage that can lead to degenerative conditions and vision loss.

While we are exposed to small, healthy amounts of blue light from sunlight during the day, excessive exposure happens when we spend exorbitant amounts of time in front of electronic devices at night, which emit significant amounts of blue light. Staring at a screen for long periods of time can cause eye fatigue and other symptoms such as eyestrain, dry eyes, headache, fatigue, blurred vision, and difficulty focusing and sleeping. A Harvard Medical School study found that blue light exposure at night suppressed melatonin production for about twice as long as green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much.

But before you despair, you should know that there's a lot you can do to protect your eyes from stress and blue light. Here's where to start:

1. Adopt good computer and phone habits.

How much time do you spend on your phone, computer, or watching TV per day? It’s probably a lot more than you think. A small study conducted by British psychologists found that young adults spend about five hours per day on their phone. If you work in front of a computer for eight hours per day, add that in plus whatever time you spend in front of a TV at night watching Netflix. This all adds up to a significant amount of time in front of a screen, exposing you to artificial blue light. It’s important to take breaks by looking away from the screen for 2 to 3 minutes every 15 to 20 minutes. Glare from digital screens can also have an effect on the eyes, so try to avoid overhead lights and use a desk lamp instead to control the glare that might come in from any nearby windows. Blue light blocker glasses are now widely available that can help filter the blue light coming from digital devices. You can also install blue light filters on many smartphones!


2. Change your lifestyle habits.

Small changes to our daily routine can help take stress off of our eyes. Some of these changes include:

  • Wear sunglasses: Just as we know it’s important to wear sunscreen when exposing our skin to the sun, it’s just as important to protect our eyes. When outside, wear sunglasses, preferably with an amber lens, that provide both 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.
  • Stop smoking: Smoking cigarettes produces cyanide, which is damaging to the eyes.
  • Keep eyes moist: Make sure that you fully blink throughout the day to moisten your eyes. If you live in a dry area and need some extra moisture, you can use homeopathic eye drops or a humidifier.
  • Exercise: Although exercise is considered beneficial for overall health, it can also help support healthy vision. Aim for at least 20 minutes per day of cardio (e.g., walking, swimming, running, etc.)

3. Eat foods for eye health.

A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetable—which contain antioxidants and carotenoids—can help protect the eyes from blue light and other stressors. Three top carotenoids for eye health are zeaxanthin, lutein, and astaxanthin. While not all carotenoids and antioxidants can pass through the blood-retinal barrier to get to the eyes, these three carotenoids can freely pass through this protective barrier to help bring benefits and protection to the eyes.

Zeaxanthin is found in green vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli. Lutein is also found in green, leafy vegetables as well as in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables like carrots, peppers, tomatoes, and corn. Zeaxanthin and lutein are found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye and can block blue light from reaching the inner parts of the eye, including the retina. These carotenoids can also reduce the risk of light-induced damage that could lead to macular degeneration (AMD).

Astaxanthin is the red pigment in nature and a very powerful antioxidant and carotenoid. It is found in some seafood like salmon and shrimp, and in freshwater algae, Haematococcus pluvialis, which is most commonly used in nutritional supplements. Studies have shown that astaxanthin can help the eyes in many ways, including reducing eye strain, helping with increasing higher accommodation amplitude (the adjustment in the lens of the eye that allows it to focus), allowing eyes to recover more quickly from eye fatigue, and reducing eye soreness, dryness, tiredness, and blurred vision.

Astaxanthin, along with macular antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, support eye health after long periods of digital screen time and improvise visual performance after excessive blue light exposure. While it’s nearly impossible to avoid blue light from screens in the modern world, following these tips can help protect your precious peepers from damage and allow your eyes to soak up the beauty of the world around us.

Did you know that astaxanthin can also help you recover from your workouts?

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