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Tired girl looking at laptop screen

Published 2 December 2020

All that screen time making your eyes sore and tired? Help is here!

Deakin Medical Centres

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Do you ever get headaches at the end of the day, or have tired eyes from using your phone or computer?

Staring at a screen for prolonged periods can lead to a condition called computer vision syndrome, which covers a range of problems like headaches, tired eyes, eyestrain and dry eyes.

Having sore and tired eyes makes it harder to spend time on assignments or even to relax in front of a movie at the end of the day.

Dr Leigh Plowman, an optometrist who practises in Colac and a current Clinical Residential Placement Host for Deakin optometry students, shared some advice about preventing and managing dry eyes.

What causes dry eyes?

When you stare at a screen, your eyes have to do three things:

For example, when you watch a YouTube video on your phone you’ll tend to stare and listen. In that moment, your eyes are probably blinking less often because your brain is telling them not to miss anything important. Your eyes start to become drier and may feel tired, sore or itchy.

Dry eyes can also become permanent – imagine feeling like you had an eyelash in your eye every day or having to use drops frequently.

What’s the best way to prevent dry eyes?

While studying online and screen time go hand-in-hand, the key is to reduce your time staring at a screen as much as possible.

Here are Leigh’s top tips:

Put your most addictive devices in another room

When you’re studying, put your phone elsewhere so you’re not tempted to keep checking it (this will also help you focus on your assignment!). It’s also a good idea to separate your working space from your sleeping space, if possible.

Get a blink coach

When we’re focused we blink less. A blink coach like Eyeblink is a tool that monitors your blinking while you’re using your computer, and reminds you to have regular breaks or do blinking exercises.

Use more printed material

Studies show that our blink rate improves when reading printed material, compared to staring at a screen. So give your eyes a break and read from a paper copy instead. If you have to print, be environmentally friendly by printing on both sides of the paper and using recycled paper where possible. You could also share copies with friends in your course.

Don’t use screen time as a reward

Looking for a mini-reward? Indulge in a one-minute mindfulness break that will help to refresh you. Avoid using Youtube or Netflix – instead, put on your favourite music; go for a walk, ride or run; or buy yourself a coffee at your favourite cafe.

Define roles for your device

If you rely on your laptop for study, try to avoid using it for leisure-related activities, and avoid passive scrolling or incidental chores. Keep those activities for a separate device.

Track your smartphone usage

View daily or weekly statistics to see which apps you spend the most time on, and see if you can cut back at all to give your eyes a break.

Professional help is also available

If you have sore, dry eyes that won’t go away, you can see an optometrist like Leigh – a healthcare professional who does sight-testing and correction, and diagnoses, treats and manages vision changes. No referral is needed to see an optometrist.

If you need surgery or complex therapeutic treatment, your optometrist can refer you to an ophthalmologist, a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and managing disorders of the eye and visual system.

Remember that our Deakin Medical Centres can help with all your general health and wellbeing needs, including skin checks and course-related vaccinations. Book a telehealth appointment online or email if you have a quick question about your health.

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