Posted on Sep 22, 2022, 3 p.m.
Screen time is almost unavoidable these days, more so extended screening time is now commonplace in most jobs. Even outside of work extended screen time of some kind be it scrolling on a smartphone, playing a video game, or watching TV is the new modern way. But all that screen time can be hard on your eyes causing strain. If you are looking for a way to help give those hard-working tired eyes a rest you might be interested in the 20-20-20 Rule.
This strategy is fairly simple, taking only 20 seconds, and new research from Aston University located in Birmingham, United Kingdom, published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye suggests that this method could help to ease some of the symptoms that are associated with digital eye strain. This intervention is pretty easy: simply look away from your screen for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes making sure that you look at least 20 feet away.
Estimates suggest that at least half of the people who use computers for work experience some form of digital eye strain, typically resulting in headaches, blurred vision, irritation, and dryness. Were you aware that humans will normally blink around 15 times a minute, but during screen time this number will drop to half that rate or less? Unfortunately for those hard-working eyes, less blinking can lead to an increased risk of developing dry, irritated, and tired peepers. However, this research suggests that the 20-20-20 rule could be enough to help your eyes relax and reduce screen time strain.
The researchers believe that this is the first time that this specific eye strain intervention has been scientifically validated. “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,” said Professor James Wolffsohn, Professor of Optometry at Aston University, who led the research in collaboration with the University of Valencia, Spain.
According to the study authors special software was used to track participant gaze for two weeks, measuring symptoms before and after implementing the 20-20-20 rule. This intervention was tested on 29 participants who were affected by some form of eye strain. Software was downloaded onto the participant’s computer system that used the camera to monitor when they were in front of the screen as well as monitor gaze direction every few seconds. Every 20 minutes a program sent a pop-up message to remind participants to rest their eyes for 20 seconds by looking at least 20 feet away, and this popup could not be removed until the rest session was complete, as measured by the app.
Symptoms were measured before and after using the intervention, symptoms were also measured two weeks after and again one week after study completion. In all participants, results indicate a notable decrease in digital eye strain symptoms including sensitivity, discomfort, and dryness. However, it was noted that after the study participant symptoms largely regressed back to the condition they were in before the intervention period.
“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,” the Professor explains. “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.”
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine.
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