How to Destroy Screen Fatigue

July 16, 2013

By Tad Fry

Eye’m Classy

I’ve suffered vast amounts of fatigue after my work days even though I get enough sleep, exercise, and have a healthy diet. Of course designing and coding exhausts our brains, but this fatigue had me wanting to go to bed immediately when I got home without even eating. If you’re in the same industry or have the same symptoms, then you’ll be interested in what my optometrist bestowed upon me.

The Problem

Considering I hadn’t been to the optometrist in over 14 years, I thought it best to pay him a visit to rule out my eyes going bad. After several tests, he told me my eyes were fine, and I didn’t need lenses. He even mentioned that based on my history, he didn’t need to see me for another 10 years.

But, there was one final test, and I failed. He had me look at a set of horizontal lines intersecting vertical lines. One set was black and the other green. He asked which one was which. Without hesitation, I answered. Despite my assurance, he said I was wrong, and that confirmed what he thought was wrong with me.

“Your eyes are simply overworked,” he said. “If I gave you a box of rocks and asked you to carry them all day without any breaks, would you be able to relax your arms near the end of the day? Our eyes work in much the same way. If we don’t give them frequent breaks, then it’s difficult to relax them. This can lead to an immense amount of fatigue.”

He further explained we have a buffer between seeing things up close and far away. Since we look at a monitor that is in the mid-range of that buffer, our eyes work a little harder to stay within that range. Staying within that mid-range with no breaks can tire us out.

The Solution

We must give our eyes rest breaks throughout the day. My optometrist suggested every 20 to 30 minutes to look at something else in the room for 30 seconds and then return to working. He said looking at a painting on the wall would work fine, but looking out a window would be best.

These rest breaks time up nicely with The Pomodoro Technique; therefore, I’ve been using my Pomodoro Timer to reward myself with these breaks.

Since looking out the window for 30 seconds every 25 minutes, I’ve noticed significant improvement and have more energy toward the end of the day. Taking the breaks has not harmed my productivity, if anything I’ve been getting more work accomplished and have what feels to be a fresher mind. Keen intellect for the win. I can also tell a difference on the days when I forget to take the breaks and feel quite sluggish by the end of the work day.

Try It

We of course are all different; our age and other factors affect fatigue. But, if you have similarly unexplained symptoms and stare at a screen all day, then I hope you’ll give these breaks a try. It’s definitely worked for me!