Over the past few weeks, social distancing has made it so that many of us are more exposed to screens than usual. Many have relied on YouTube to find workouts and yoga classes, and are also regularly using Messenger, Zoom, and FaceTime to catch up with loved ones. Plus, let's face it, this period is pretty ideal for re-watching all 10 seasons of Friends, or even binging shows that we probably would never have taken the time to watch back when we had to put on real clothes and get out of the house to go to work!
While this slower period is rich in entertainment, we have to be careful because our eyes are anything but on vacation right now - if we’re looking at screens for long hours, we’re actually making them work extra hard.
Basically, blue light is made up of the shortest wavelengths in the visible light spectrum, located right after ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Our main source of blue light is from the sun, but there are many artificial sources that also emit this blue light, such as digital screens, fluorescent and LED lamps, and flat screen TVs. Our eyes have a natural ability to block certain UV rays, but they barely block the blue light rays that reach our retina, which is why they’re cause for concern. In the end, our eyes only have a tiny defence against these rays. When we expose our eyes to too much blue light, we can suffer from eyestrain (dry eyes, headache, glare), and our circadian rhythm could be disturbed, which can disturb our sleep. Without necessarily banning screens from our daily lives, we can moderate their use. Here are some tips to reduce your eyes' exposure to harmful rays:
Listen to podcasts!
While you complete a puzzle, or while you’re drawing, cleaning or cooking, listen to a podcast rather than letting a television play in the background. This will prevent you from looking at a screen inadvertently just because you’re interested in the content it broadcasts. Many podcasts are available on the Podcasts app on your Apple device and several others are also available for free on the web.
Have fun, go for walks, or play with your kids outside! These outdoor activities are good for both your physical and mental health, but remember to wear sunglasses in order to protect your eyes. If you’re gardening, doing small renovations or completing DIY projects, make sure to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes - the last place you would probably want to be in right now is a hospital emergency room.
Rediscover activities without screens, like in the good old days!
Board games, puzzles, cards, hide-and-seek, riddles, basketball, yoga, cycling, painting, knitting or reading: it's time to discover a new passion for an activity that doesn’t require electronic technology!
What if you have to work from home?
Some of us are fortunate enough to still have jobs, which means that we’re glued to our screens all day. We suggest that you install an application on your computer that adjusts the brightness of your screen according to the ambient light. We really love Flux, which uses your location data to adapt in (almost) real time to the external light associated with your local weather. We also suggest that you wear your glasses if the lenses are coated with blue light protection. If they aren’t, or if you don’t wear prescription glasses, give TrueBlue glasses a try - they  protect your eyes from blue light.
Bonus: to sleep better, stop looking at your screens 30 minutes before going to bed
We all do it. Most people look at their phones while in bed, just before turning off the lights and before trying to fall asleep. We understand! But instead of looking at your phone, we suggest reading a book, writing in a journal, or listening to a story to help you fall asleep faster. Have you heard of the Nothing Much Happens podcast? It tells you a bedtime story (where nothing much happens) in a soothing, slow pace, then repeats it at an even slower pace. This ultimately results in a relaxed, feel-good state, calming your mind. If you’re preoccupied about the current situation and have difficulty falling asleep, we highly recommend it!