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Staring at a computer all day? You need to know the 20-20-20 Rule.

Our modern day world has the majority of people spending significantly more time staring, for what often seems like hours on end, at up close objects.  Whether that is a desktop computer screen, laptop, tablet, E-reader, book or cell phone they all require our eyes to maintain a focus at an up close object.

For most people (all except those who are nearsighted and aren’t wearing their glasses) their eyes’ natural focus point is far off in the distance.  In order to move that focus point from distance to near there is a muscle in the eye that needs to contract to allow the lens of the eye to change its shape and bring up close objects into focus.  This process is called accommodation. 

When we accommodate to view close objects, that muscle in the eye has to maintain a level of contraction to keep that focus at the near object.  If we continuously stare at the near object that muscle in the eye eventually gets tired.  When it does it may start to relax a bit and that can cause the vision to intermittently blur because the lens shape will change back to its distance focal point and the near object at which we have been looking will become less clear.

Continuing to push the eyes to focus on near objects once the focus starts to blur will began to produce a tired or strained feeling in addition to the blur.  This happens very frequently to people who spend long hours on their device screens or reading. 

An additional problem that occurs when we stare at objects is that our eyes natural blink rate declines.  The average person blinks about 10 times per minute (varies significantly by individual) but when we are staring at something our blink rate drops by about 60% (4 times per minute on average.)  This allows the cornea (the front surface of the eye) to dry out faster.  The cornea needs to stay moist in order to see clearly, otherwise little dry spots start appearing in the tear film and the view gets foggy.  Think about your view through a dirty car windshield and how much that view improves when you turn the washers on.

So what is one to do if your job, hobby or passion requires you to stare at a close object all day?  Enter the 20-20-20 rule.  Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds and look 20 feet off in the distance.  This lets the eye muscle relax for 20 seconds and believe it or not that is generally enough for it to have enough energy to go back at staring up close for another 20 minutes with much less blurring and fatigue. It also will help if you blink slowly several times while you are doing this to help remoisten the eye surface.

Don’t feel like you can give up those 20 seconds every 20 minutes? Well if you don’t there is evidence that your overall productivity will decline if you start suffering from fatigue and blurring. So take the short break and the rest of your day will go much smoother.

Watch the video below for further explanation.  There are some additional eye exercises described in the video that to me are much less important but concentrate on the 20-20-20 rule and the blinking portions of the video.

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Wednesday, 01 December 2021

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