Computers and Headaches in the time of COVID

Hello everyone, Figg here.  If you are anything like me, all this online learning is very different than what used to be your daily routine.  Once upon a time, I thought I sat in front of my computer too much, oh boy was I wrong!

That first week of online learning way back in March did me in.  Two days into creating lessons and grading assignments I had to call it quits.  A migraine had crept up on me and wouldn’t go away.  I slept and drank water, ate, stopped eating chocolate… but it persisted for 5 days.

That’s when I started researching eye fatigue in computer users.  By changing my ways and buying some glasses, I’m so much better a month later!  So, let’s make sure you aren’t hurting yourself as you do your homework all day on that device of yours.

Proper Workstation Setup

There’s a lot of freedom that you can enjoy when setting up your workstation. With that said, there are two main factors that you want to consider in your layout and both are related to posture. Improper posture puts undue stress on parts of your body, resulting in faster exhaustion, strained muscles, or even injury.


Tip #1: Correct sitting posture. As it turns out, sitting up straight is not the best position for your spine – the best angle is somewhere between 120 and 135 degrees. You want your shoulders to always remain relaxed; your forearms and your hands should form a straight line; your feet should be flat on the floor; and the top of your monitor should be at eye-level. All of this leads to the least amount of stress on your body.

Tip #2: Use a standing desk. Or your kitchen island that is bar height.  Suffice it to say that standing helps improve your overall posture, increases your stamina over time, and works as a reminder to take frequent breaks.

Minimize Eye Strain

When it comes to computer-related fatigue, one of the biggest culprits often gets forgotten: your eyes. Back pain and sore muscles are easy to notice, but we tend to overlook the fact that our eyes are tired, blurry, and dry — and that impacts the rest of your mood and energy more than you think it would.Eye Fatigue | Family Health Care

Tip #3: Correct ambient lighting. The first thing you want to do is make sure that your ambient light isn’t very bright at all. Harsh fluorescent overhead lights and bright sunlight will cause your eyes to strain as they try to read the screen. If possible, use shades and curtains to dampen any bright sources of light, and replace fluorescent bulbs with incandescent or halogen lighting.

Tip #4: Optimize screen settings. Your screen’s brightness should match that of your ambient lighting. One way to test: if looking at a blank white screen feels like you’re looking into a light bulb, it’s too bright. On the other hand, if it feels drab and gray, then your brightness is probably too low. Fortunately, there are a few helpful apps and programs for screen-related eye strain.

Tip #5: Blink regularly. Computer screens have a way of stealing all of our attention, and that means that we’re often so engrossed in what we’re doing that we forget to blink. This causes our eyes to dry out, which can lead to itchy eyeballs, blurry vision, exhaustion, or in rare cases, eye damage, so try to blink regularly. If you need dry eye relief, be sure to use eye drops that are meant for lubrication, NOT red eyes. Don’t forget to consult a doctor if you feel any debilitating effects.

Tip #6: Adjust your computer display settings.

Adjusting the display settings of your computer can help reduce eye strain and fatigue. Generally, these adjustments are beneficial:

  • Brightness: Adjust the brightness of the display so it’s approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding workstation. As a test, look at the white background of this Web page. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it may be too dark.
  • Text size and contrast: Adjust the text size and contrast for comfort, especially when reading or composing long documents. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.
  • Color temperature: This is a technical term used to describe the spectrum of visible light emitted by a color display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light that is associated with more eye strain than longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. Reducing the color temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted by a color display for better long-term viewing comfort.

Tip #7: Exercise your eyes.

Another cause of computer eye strain is focusing on fatigue. To reduce your risk of tiring your eyes by constantly focusing on your screen, look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds. Some eye doctors call this the “20-20-20 rule.” Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye to reduce fatigue.

Another exercise is to look far away at an object for 10-15 seconds, then gaze at something up close for 10-15 seconds. Then look back at the distant object. Do this 10 times. This exercise reduces the risk of your eyes’ focusing ability to “lock-up” (a condition called accommodative spasm) after prolonged computer work.

Both of these exercises will reduce the risk of computer eye strain. Also, remember to blink frequently during the exercises to reduce your risk of computer-related dry eye.

Take Frequent Breaks

Perhaps the greatest problem is that we forget that we’re on the computer. Four hours can fly by in the blink of an eye and suddenly our bodies are worn out, our minds are deflated, and we just have no energy to do anything else… so we stay on the computer even longer. The absolute best way to minimize health risks from computer usage is to take regular breaks.

What Shoes Are Best for Long Distance Running? | Nike Help

Tip #8: Get your blood flowing. As mentioned before, the best thing for your body is to get it moving. Circulating your blood is essential for improved physical health and energy. Every once in a while – preferably at least once every hour – get up from your desk and shake your limbs about. If possible, go for a walk, even if it’s only to the restroom.

Tip #9: Refresh your mental clarity. If you can, try to break your attention away from the computer every twenty to thirty minutes. Strike up a conversation with a friend or coworker – five minutes is more than long enough. Look out the window and enjoy the scenery. Or even close your eyes for a few minutes (but don’t fall asleep!). This helps prevent your mind from feeling like it’s sloshing through mud.

Consider computer glasses.

Tip #10: Buy Blue Light Blocking Glasses

For the greatest comfort at your computer, you might benefit from having your eye doctor modify your eyeglasses prescription to create customized computer glasses. This is especially true if you normally wear contact lenses, which may become dry and uncomfortable during extended screen time.

Computer glasses also are a good choice if you wear bifocals or progressive lenses, because these lenses generally are not optimal for the distance to your computer screen.

Also, you may want to consider photochromic lenses or lightly tinted lenses for computer eyewear to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful blue light emitted by digital devices. Ask your eye doctor for details and advice.

How To Avoid Digital Eye Strain |

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