When you read that title did you think I was going to talk about all the disgusting things that nurses see? If you’re a nurse, I don’t have to explain that. Everyone else, you really don’t want to know… You will never un- see it, LOL.
In this blog I’m talking about our eye health and the constant attack on them. With all the digital charting that we do and the fluorescent lighting that’s constantly beaming down on us. I feel like our eyes take a beating! Plus if we ever get a free moment or an actual break we are looking at our phones. Then, when we get off work we are looking at our phones again and more computer screens, ipads, notebooks and TVs at home. Let me ask you this? When you get out of bed in the morning, before work, are you looking at your phone and computer screens then too? Where does it end? Are you resting your eyes at all?!
And This Is Not Just For Nurses. There Are Many Careers That Fall Into This Scenario.
- Get frequent headaches?
- Have blurred vision?
- Have dry eyes?
- Have a hard time focusing?
- Have a hard time sleeping?
All of those can be symptoms of prolonged blue light exposure and eye strain.
What is blue light? Blue light is all around us and can be natural and artificial. An example of natural blue light is the sun. Blue light has shorter wavelengths of high energy light. That high energy gets scattered across the atmosphere which is why we have a blue sky during the day. As the sun sets the high energy blue light goes away and you get the red, yellow lights that you see when the sun sets.
Artificial blue light is also high energy and shorter wave length. Although the light emitted is only a fraction of the sun the difference is that they are high energy all the time. They don’t go away like the sun when it sets. Plus the amount of time we spend exposed to artificial blue light and the proximity of it to our face is most concerning.
Artificial lights include smart phones, iPads, computer screens, TVs, tablet screens, fluorescent lighting and LEDs.
Although I talk about blue light in this blog in a negative way, blue light is actually beneficial to our health. This high energy visible light helps us with alertness, memory, cognitive function and elevates mood. Blue light suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone, which is why we are alert. So you can see how constant exposure to this will mess up our circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep.
How can we fix this?
Since we have to work and I don’t think computerize charting is going to go away anytime soon we have to focus on the things that we can change. Can you guess what that would be🤔? You guessed it! You need a break from your smart devises because they are hurting your health!
Here’s what you do:
- Instead of scrolling through Facebook on your break…. give your eyes a break instead. Even if you have a few minutes. Go outside and look far into the distance. If you can’t go outside, go to the top floor of your hospital and look out a window. Look at the sky, the clouds, the trees far away. I go on the helicopter pad sometimes. WHY: we are constantly straining our eyes when we look at close things like computers and phones. The ciliary muscles in your eyes stay contracted when you’re looking at near objects. When you look at something in the distance this relaxes your ciliary muscles and gives your eyes a break. You will immediately feel the difference. Go do it right now. Did you feel the difference?
- If you actually get a 30 min break use that time to close you eyes. Taking a little siesta in a quiet place is not only beneficial for you eyes but your brain to. I usually go to my car and put on some meditation music. When I was an EMT I would lay in the back on the stretcher with earbuds in. Of course you would need to rely on your partner to listen for the tones of a call coming in. WHY: Napping can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. This is even more beneficial for night shift workers!!! In a 2006 study, researchers at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center affiliated with St. John’s Mercy Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospital in suburban St. Louis, MO, looked at the effectiveness of taking naps to cope with sleepiness during the night shift. They found that naps improved alertness and performance among night shift workers and that the combination of naps and caffeine had the most beneficial effect.
- Taking this 20 – 30 minute eye break. Plus The last tip of looking far away is part of the 20 -20-20 rule. This means Every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- When you wake up- don’t immediately blast your eyeballs with artificial light and start the day by straining those ciliary muscles. Let them adjust naturally. Open your curtains for natural sunlight. If someone else is sleeping …do you have a window in your bathroom? Open it while you’re brushing your teeth and doing all the bathroom things. No window in the bathroom? Think outside of the box. Once you’re done go outside on your porch to drink your cup of coffee. Let the sun hit your face. Night shift workers- take advantage of any sunlight left. Make that your first priority! Getting this natural light will help wake you up and just getting outside will increase you mood to start the night. Light therapy may also help your irregular schedules. Especially during certain times of the year or where you live when days are shorter. Light therapy equipment usually includes a special lamp that emits light similar to natural sunlight like this budget friendly one. THE POINT IS – Don’t strain your eye muscles as soon as you get out of bed.
- The same holds true with light exposure when getting off work. If you must check you social statuses set a time limit for yourself. Use “night shift” modes on you smart advices so it automatically adjust to orange/red hughes. WHY: The use of artificial lighting and electronics at least 2hrs before bed may contribute to sleep problems. These devices emit light in the blue wavelength, which may trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime. You can also purchase blue blocking glasses. Give you eyes a break hours before bed a try reading a real book next to an amber colored light. Night shift workers- invest in blue blocking glasses and put them on before leaving work. This will block blue light from the sun that will keep you awake. See other tips here.
Tips when at work or home when looking at a computer.
- Sit about two feet away from a computer screen to reduce eyestrain.
- Make sure the center of the computer monitor is slightly lower than eye level — four to eight inches.
- Use a matte screen filter (about $10) to reduce glare on your smartphone, computer screen, or tablet.
- Use a larger font to keep your eyes from working hard to see letters.
- Reduce glare with softer lighting.
AND TAKE BREAKS!
More information on eye strain for adults, teens and children found here.
What Have You Tried That Works? Have You Used Any Of The Above Tips? Comment below your thoughts.