What Happens When You Stare At Screens All Day Long

December 5, 2017


What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Check your phone? And the last thing you do before you shut your eyes for a good night’s rest? Let me guess, check your phone again? Add to that the number of hours you spend staring at your computer each day at work and you’ve got yourself a recipe for digital eye strain.

Why? Because your eyes haven’t evolved to stare at screens all day long.

Consider this: nearly 90% of Americans spend at least two hours each day staring at a screen; about 70% stare at multiple screens, each day; and the average U.S. worker spends seven hours a day on the computer either in the office or working from home. What does this mean for your eyesight?

According to a recent survey by the American Optometric Association, about 58% of American adults suffer digital eye strain as a direct result. Symptoms include irritated, dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, neck and shoulder pain.

“As more people spend their days at work on a computer and their free time on handheld devices, doctors of optometry are seeing more patients who are experiencing digital eye strain,” said Steven A. Loomis, O.D., president of the AOA. “The problem can be relieved by taking simple steps. Just looking away from the computer for brief periods of time throughout the day can help with discomfort and long term eye problems.”

To combat digital eye strain at work, experts recommend the following tips:

Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes take break from staring at your screen and look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It’s that simple.

Keep a distance: the AOA recommends keeping a comfortable distance from your computer monitor that allows you to easily read all text with your head and torso in an upright position and your back supported by your chair. Leave between 20 and 28 inches between your eyes and the surface of your screen – that’s the generally preferred viewing distance.

View from a different angle: the computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees, or about 4 to 5 inches, below eye level (as measured from the center of the screen).

Decrease glare: by using a glare filter. These filters diffuse the light and reduce the glare, helping your eyes better adapt to challenging indoor lighting conditions.

Blink often: it keeps your eyes lubricated, and helps minimize your chances of developing dry eyes.

image: New York Post

How Screens Can Disrupt Your Sleep

Staring at screens all day long isn’t just bad for your eyes, it also has a negative impact on your sleep. Since the invention of mobile phones, tablets and computers, our eyes no longer react to natural light in the same way.

Just think about it, in order to fall asleep, our bodies need melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone secreted by our pineal glands that regulates our sleep cycles. According to, “light affects how much melatonin your body produces”. However, when we stare at bright screens all day long, “the light that is absorbed through our eyes delays the release of melatonin”.

You don’t even have to be staring directly at the TV, or your phone for that matter, if enough blue light hits your eyes, your pineal gland can stop releasing melatonin. That’s why it’s never a good idea to crawl into bed with your phone. In fact, experts recommend you turn down the brightness setting, and hold the screen further away from your eyes.

Why is this so important? Because our eyes are not very good at blocking blue light; virtually all visible blue light can pass unhindered through the cornea and lens of our eyes and reach the light-sensitive retina. What happens next, is the reason you’re having such a hard time falling asleep after your eyes have been exposed to increasing amounts of blue light.

According to, “newly discovered sensors in our eyes, known as intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, or ipRGCs, gather information about light levels just like our rods and cones do, but instead of sending it to the visual system, they send it to the body’s master clock in the brain. This clock controls the production of melatonin, which is essentially the hormone that makes you sleepy”.

Now that you know what blue light exposure can do to your eyes, and your sleep, you might want to consider cutting back on tech use right before your bedtime. Doing so will not only aid your sleep, but it will also have a positive impact on your productivity levels.