Rest your brain and your eyes for better health
All day long we are “slaving away” at our workstations whether we are working in a bank, a supermarket, a hospital, a clinic, a classroom or at a university. It is quite a stress on our body to sit at a computer, and it is tiring on our eyes.
There is an epidemic of dry eyes and blepharitis among young people who are constantly working with computers. We used to see only the older patients who were suffering from watering or dry eyes and red rimming – symptoms that are consistent with blepharitis. Now, however, we are seeing many A-type personalities – busy young men and women with highly stressful jobs who are tensing their bodies and their eyes by sitting at their computers all day.
I was told by a personal trainer recently that the best way to keep your back straight while working is to sit on a Fit Ball, which forces you to sit upright and not slouch. Let’s try it!
Many years ago, when people still used typewriters, I heard that the best way to rest your eyes was to blink every time you hit the return key to go on to the next line, but this can be taken a lot further. You could – shock, horror – turn the screen off temporarily.
No one will think you are not working, because you could be using a pen and paper to work, or you could be thinking or talking on the phone.
But we resist doing this, as it is a sign that we are working if our computer is on, with the screen illuminated. Many of us think that if we turn the screen off, we might be considered a sloucher who is not working. In which case, just turn away.
You can turn away from the computer briefly and just sit and think, write in a notebook, talk on the phone, but most importantly, you have your eyes away from the computer. This way your body will be more relaxed, and your eyes will dry out less. You will blink more, especially if you are talking.
We severely reduce our blink rate when we stare at a screen, and this can include a cinema or a work screen or even our mobile phone. If you are talking you may well have your eyes closed momentarily, or if they are open your blink rate will increase because invariably studies have shown that we blink more when we talk.
So remember, look after your body and look after your eyes. There is a lot you can do to rest them and keep them healthy before you have to put in an eyedrop or visit an osteopath.
I liken this situation to petrol consumption and the hybrid car. When the vehicle is idling at the lights, it turns off or goes into minimal consumption mode. This is also the case with the computer. When you are not looking at it, not just when you are not typing, the screen should be able to turn off. By putting in a simple feedback loop based on eye-gaze monitoring, the screen should be able to respond to diverted gaze for more than a few seconds and shut down, then light up when your gaze returns to it.
I propose Eye Saving Time (EST)
We need an eye-tracking device that is linked to the computer to turn the screen off when our eyes are looking away for more than 20 seconds. Then it should rapidly turn on (not so suddenly as to startle us) when our gaze returns to the computer, thus reducing the amount of light and heat exposure to our eyes and giving us some much-needed EST.