Digital screens are everywhere. We work with screens, play with screens, and look at screens while we’re waiting in line. All of that screen-time comes with potential downsides, and may take a toll on our eyes over time. To try to minimize the negative effects and digital eye strain of extensive time looking at screens, many eye doctors suggest using the 20-20-20 rule as part of your eye health care. The catchy name makes it easy to remember, and ahead we’ll dive into the details of exactly how the 20-20-20 rule works.
Eye Care and Digital Eye Strain
What is the 20-20-20 rule?
Whether you’re using a phone, computer, tablet or watching TV, the idea behind the 20-20-20 rule is actually very simple: every 20 minutes that you’re looking at a screen, take a break and stare at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. That’s it. You don’t have to worry about walking off the distance, or pulling out a tape measure to make sure that the object is exactly 20 feet away. The idea is to pick an object that is close to 20 feet away.
The trick is making sure that you remember to do it every 20 minutes when you’re using a digital screen, and making sure that you look at the object for at least 20 seconds. This is a rule that you can follow almost anywhere, whether using a screen for productivity or enjoyment.
What about activities that don’t require a screen?
Screen time isn’t the only activity that can cause eye strain, and the 20-20-20 rule may apply in other situations, as well. If you’re reading a paper book, writing, or doing work that requires you to focus your vision consistently on very small details, then it may also be a good idea to give your eyes a rest using the 20-20-20 rule. No matter what activity you’re doing, the basics behind the 20-20-20 rule remain the same when considering your eye health care. Take a break every 20 minutes to look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Do I really have to do it every 20 minutes?
When you’re working, reading, or watching a video, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re doing. But yes, it’s a good idea to stay on schedule with the 20-20-20 rule whenever possible. The good news is that most of the devices you’ll be using will also have built in timers you can use to set reminders. Setting 20-20-20 reminders on your computer and phone is a great way to stay on track, and eventually taking those breaks simply becomes a habit.
Why follow the 20-20-20 rule?
Humans normally blink about 15 times per minute, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. However, when using a computer or other digital screens, we may only blink about one-third as often, which can lead to eye strain.
Digital eye strain caused by extensive screen use may be connected to certain vision problems, and can cause unpleasant symptoms like dry eyes, headache, light sensitivity, and eye fatigue. So in addition to potentially helping with long-term eye health issues, the 20-20-20 rule can also be an easy way to help limit some of the most common symptoms that come with extensive digital screen time.
If you have any questions about the 20-20-20 rule, how it works, or how it applies to you, speak with your eye health care provider to learn more. If you don’t have an eye doctor, use our doctor search to find a TLC Affiliate Eye Doctor near you. It’s a small step to take, and it may make a big difference.