I’m sure you’ve heard more than once that spending a lot of time on computers, phones and other devices is not very healthy for our eyes. However, you’re a busy academic and you never had the time to look for what to do to protect your eyes. So here my easy-to-implement solutions for computers, for phones, for watching movies at night, and to reduce eyes strain and dryness. Hopefully you can find 10 minutes to implement at least one of these solutions and then, listen to your eyes telling you thanks :)
A free and very easy to use software for both Mac and Windows is f.lux. It creates a red filter on your screen which lowers the amount of blue light going into your eyes. The beauty is that it progressively adapts the red filter intensity with the time of the day. You can manually adjust the strength of the red filters you want during the day, evening and night. Personally I set it up quite strong, so in the late evening, after 10PM my screen is becoming so red it’s like it’s screaming at me to go to bed! Just click download, install it and let it do its stuff, you can adjust the settings later if you need.
You may also have heard about the new Dark Mode of macOS Mojave or on Windows 10. These dark modes can definitely help reduce eye strain from bright screens at night. However, to me they are not sufficient because they do not affect every part of the system, like a webpage white background will still stay white and bright. Nonetheless, using a dark mode in combination with f.lux does sound like the ultimate solution.
While researching for this article, I discovered that Mac already had something called Night Shift and which, like f.lux, applies a red filter on your screen after sunset. However, f.lux seems to be more efficient at filtering out blue light and it has more fine-tuning options.
*Update April 2019: One problem with Mojave Dark Mode is that you have to manually switch it on and off in the System Preferences. Well, here someone made a super nice and simple (and free!) app to make this automatic, it’s called NightOwl, I’ve been using it since a few months now and it just works perfectly 👌 enjoy!
Unfortunately f.lux is not really available on smart phones… If you have a recent smart phone, you may have a red filter option already build-in and which can be easily enabled or disabled just like wifi. If you do, make sure to use it but from my experience it is not as efficient as apps. I’ve now been using Red Moon since a few months and it works perfectly well on my Android phone (free on Fdroid or about $2 on PlayStore). It is very similar to f.lux and you can easily adjust the red filter strength you want. Again it will take just a few minutes to install it and your eyes will love it.
Another similar one I tried is Twilight (free on PlayStore), more ideas of apps for phones and other devices like tablets here.
For watching movies at night:
What if I wanna watch the last Doctor Who episode on my laptop at night? A red filter will mess up the colors! Indeed … one solution is to use blue light blocking glasses. I heard about such glasses from a friend who doesn’t have vision defects, but who used to watch a lot of movies on her laptop before sleeping and who was feeling tired all the time. Since she uses such blue light blocking glasses, she said she doesn’t even need coffee anymore! Such glasses are becoming more and more popular and usually they are quite cheap, just Google for it or ask at your local optical shop.
And if you do have a vision defect, like myself who is very much short-sighted, it’s definitely worth paying the extra to get anti-blue-light filters on corrective glasses.
To reduce eyes strain and dryness:
When we work on our computers, we tend to blink at a lower rate than normal and not to blink all the way. I’ve personally noticed my eyes getting dryer and dryer the more time I spend on my laptop.
Therefore a few months ago I purchased Blink, a $3 Mac app which displays an eye and animate it blinking to gently force me to blink. It’s kind of crazy to want something that disturbs me on my own laptop and I was skeptical at first, but I quickly got used to this blinking eye showing up every 5 minutes in the middle of my screen and I barely see it anymore, while it still helps me to blink more, almost unconsciously. I do feel my eyes being less dry than before. Again a quick to install app that can make a big difference for your health.
Another solution to reduce eye strain is to look away regularly for a few seconds. You might have already heard about the 20-20-20 rule = every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. I’d like to add “and blink fully several times”. 20 feet = 6 meters, what about the 20-6-20 rule?
I think this rule fits well with the pomodoro technique: set a timer to 25 minutes, do focus work like reading a paper or making figures, then take a 5 minutes break and make sure to look away for at least 20 seconds, repeats.
Oh and one last thing: I know in academia we are used to reading super small font printed on paper, but we don’t have to kill our eyes with small fonts on a screen! On Mac remember to press cmd and “+” to zoom in!
I hope you can find in this article some clear actionable solutions to test for yourself and if you do and if it helps your eyes, please share it around :)
To receive my blog posts in full text in your emails just subscribe below: