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Pain-free new year: Tips to prevent screen-induced headaches
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Pain-free new year: Tips to prevent screen-induced headaches

Prioritizing eye health and adopting habits that promote a balanced digital lifestyle can lead to a life free of screen-induced headaches

Getting a headache from screen time is common in people these days, and popping the pill to kill the pain has also become commonplace

Digital screens are an indelible part of our lives and livelihoods. Needless to say, they bring in quite a lot of health issues. The human body, by design, is not meant to sit in a confined space staring into a computer or mobile screen for long durations. Getting a headache from screen time is common in people these days, and popping the pill to kill the pain has also become commonplace. However, one can easily avoid such headaches with slight changes in the routine, say experts. This new year, you can work towards a life free from headaches caused by screen time by adopting habits that promote a balanced digital lifestyle. 

How prolonged use of screens causes headaches

Dr P Venkata Krishnan, senior consultant, internal medicine, Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon, explains that the prolonged use of computer screens contributes to headaches through a combination of factors.

Eye strain: Staring at a screen for extended periods can cause eye strain. The eyes continuously adjust to the screen’s brightness and contrast. When these are not optimal, it can lead to discomfort and headaches.

Blue light exposure: A digital screen emits blue light, which may disrupt the circadian rhythm and potentially contribute to a headache. Prolonged screen time, especially before bedtime, can interfere with sleep patterns.

Poor ergonomics: Incorrect posture and poor ergonomics such as improper screen height or chair positioning can strain the neck and shoulder muscles, triggering tension headaches.

Reduced blinking: When focused on a screen, people tend to blink less frequently. This leads to dry eyes, which can contribute to eye discomfort and headaches.

Steps to prevent headaches caused by screen time 

Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. This helps reduce eye strain and relaxes the eye muscles. Following this rule can seem difficult as people get glued to their screens, whether they are focused on completing a task, watching an OTT series or doomscrolling on social media. 

“When this seems difficult to follow, adjust the screen brightness and the lighting of the office. This minimizes the headache from screen time,” says Dr Sandeep Ghanta, consultant, internal medicine, Star Hospital, Financial District, Hyderabad.

Adjust screen settings: “Modify your screen settings to reduce brightness and minimize blue light emission. Many devices now offer ‘night mode’ settings that decrease blue light exposure in the evening,” shares Krishnan.

If the office lighting adds to the discomfort, try switching them off while working. Many offices also have glass windows, which allow soothing natural light to come in. 

Proper ergonomics: Ensure the computer screen is at eye level, and the chair and desk are ergonomically designed. This helps maintain a neutral posture, reducing strain on the neck and shoulders. Proper posture helps reduce the impact of headaches.

Blink regularly: Make a conscious effort to blink frequently to prevent dry eyes. “Consider using artificial tears (eye drops) to keep the eyes lubricated, especially in dry indoor environments,” advises Dr Krishnan.

Take regular breaks:  To reduce the possibility of headaches caused by screen time, take breaks, especially when you start feeling eye discomfort. You can even incorporate short breaks into your work routine. Stand up, stretch and move around to alleviate tension and improve blood circulation. Dr Ghanta adds, “When this is not possible, just close your eyes and relax for some time. This reduces the strain on the eyes and alleviates discomfort.”

Ways to treat frequent headaches induced by screen time

Apply a warm compress: Close your eyes and place a warm compress over them. This will help soothe eye strain and ease tension headaches.

Hydrate: Dehydration can contribute to headaches. Ensure you stay adequately hydrated throughout the day.

Consider blue light-blocking/zero-power glasses: Invest in blue light-blocking glasses to reduce eye strain. This minimizes the impact of blue light exposure on sleep patterns and filters bright light to an extent as well.

Consult an eye care professional: If headaches persist, consider consulting an eye care professional. They can identify any underlying vision issues and recommend appropriate corrective measures.

Takeaways

  • Prolonged screen time causes strain in the eyes and neck muscles and can lead to a headache.
  • To prevent this and lead a life free of screen-induced headaches, adopt a balanced digital lifestyle.
  • Following measures such as taking frequent breaks, adjusting the lighting and blinking regularly can help prevent overstraining the eye. Thus, you can avoid headaches caused by screen time.

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