We spend so much time staring at screens, from laptops and tablets to phones and the TV. And we often forget how hard our eyes work under these demands. This extra work can lead to a collection of uncomfortable symptoms called digital eye strain.
Many eye doctors recommend the 20-20-20 rule to help alleviate eye fatigue and strain by giving your eyes a rest. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something at least 20 feet away.
However, if your eyes feel more than just a little tired, it’s important to see your eye doctor for an eye exam. Some vision problems can contribute to eye strain, like an uncorrected refractive error, and some eye conditions present with similar symptoms, like dry eyes. A thorough eye exam can rule out underlying issues.
How the 20-20-20 Rule Works
The 20-20-20 rule was first proposed by Dr. Jeffery Anshel in the late 1990s. It has since become popular over the years and adopted by organizations like the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the American Academy of Optometry (AAOpt).
Extended screen time subjects our eyes to a fixed focal distance, which strains the eye muscles responsible for focusing. The eye muscles work intensely to accommodate the fixed distance demanded by screens, causing overexertion.
The 20-20-20 rule offers respite by interrupting this cycle. This break allows the eyes to recover from the strain of fixed distance focusing, reducing fatigue and discomfort.
Tips for Easy Implementation
With the increasing amount of time spent staring at screens, it’s no surprise that eye strains and fatigue are becoming more prevalent. The 20-20-20 rule is a simple and effective way to help relieve eye strain and keep them comfortable throughout the day.
Some practical tips to make this rule easier to implement into your daily routine are:
- Set a reminder on your phone or computer to take breaks every 20 minutes.
- Make sure you’re looking at an object 20 feet away and not at another screen or anything closer to your eyes.
- Use those 20 seconds to give your body a break by stretching or standing up and moving around a bit.
Additional Eye Exercises
Some other exercises that can do to help reduce eye strain include:
- Eye rolls: This exercise can help ease the tension and soreness in your eyes. You simply roll your eyes gently in one direction and then back again.
- Flexing: This involves moving your eyes in various directions—left, right, up, and down.
- Blinking: Frequent blinking can help refresh your eyes by lubricating them.
- Focusing near and far: Hold your thumb close to your eye and focus on it. Then, focus on an object in the distance. This helps improve your eyes’ ability to switch focus.
- Palming: Rub your hands together to warm them up, then place your palms over your closed eyes. This can help soothe tired eyes.
- Zooming: This is a focusing exercise. Hold your thumb out at arm’s length and focus on it. Gradually bring your thumb closer to your eye, maintaining focus, then extend your arm again.
- Figure eights: This exercise can help increase your eyes’ flexibility. Imagine a giant figure eight on the floor and trace it with your eyes.
- Change your focus: Hold a finger a few inches away from your eye, focus on it, then slowly move it away while keeping your gaze focused on the finger.
While these exercises can help alleviate eye strain, they do not substitute professional medical advice.
Healthy Eye Habits for Better Vision
The 20-20-20 rule is a simple yet effective way to give your eyes a break from the constant strain of staring at screens. Taking breaks every 20 minutes and looking away, your eyes can relax and recover, helping prevent eye strain and fatigue.
With the increasing use of screens in our daily lives, it’s essential to take care of our eyes and incorporate this rule into our daily routine, along with regular eye exams.