Computer screens can cause a tremendous amount of stress on your eyes, especially when settings and placement aren’t appropriately adjusted. Here are some essential tips for computer and monitor users who frequently experience a migraine attack or computer headache at work.
1. Balance Your Screen Brightness With Your Workspace
The brightness of your computer screen should blend with the brightness around your computer screen. If you work in a dim office and stare at an ultra-bright display, your eyes are being forced to operate under two seriously contrasting environments.
Your office should provide a well-lit workspace. If it does not, consider toning down your screen brightness and investing in a desk lamp.
2. Adjust Your Monitor Refresh Rate
The refresh rate indicates how many times per second your computer screen renews its image. When rates are set too low, monitors can imperceptibly flicker, causing your eyes to strain more than necessary. The refresh rate frequency is measured in Hertz. You’ll want to set this rate as high as it will go to reduce eye strain and prevent a computer headache.
3. Increase Your Font Size
Squint much? It’s not necessary since most computers allow you to change the default font size you see, just as phones now do. If you catch yourself squinting to make out text or notice that by the end of the day, your face feels tired or strained, you may need to adjust your font size. Your eyes won’t need to work so hard to read, reducing the risk of triggering migraine symptoms.
4. Properly Stage Your Work Space
Before you even sit down at your computer, notice how your desk is set up. The right setup will encourage you to sit comfortably and relaxed without straining your neck. First, make sure your monitor is directly in front of you so you don’t have to twist your spine to focus. Adjust your chair so that you are looking straight ahead at the screen.
Next, make sure the monitor is at eye level so you don’t have to slouch or strain. Set up your monitor 20 to 40 inches away from your face. A screen that is too close or too far can lead to eye strain. Finally, make sure there is no glare from another light source on your screen.
5. Sit Upright And Comfortably
Staging your workspace correctly (see #4) will help you sit in a comfortable, upright posture. Try to check in with your posture throughout the day to make sure that you aren’t slouching. Gravity slowly draws your shoulders downwards while you sit, which makes slouching tempting, especially over the course of many hours at a desk.
“Sitting comfortably is very important when you use a computer to avoid muscle tension building up in the head, neck, and shoulders. This muscle tension is implicated in the onset of migraines,” says the Migraine Trust.
6. Install A Screen Filter
That blue light can interfere with your natural circadian rhythm and can aggravate light sensitivity. Researcher Rami Burstein, Ph.D., Vice-Chair of Research in the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, and Academic Director of the Comprehensive Headache Center at BIDMC, discovered that blue light hurts Migraines patients – even those who are blind. This finding prompted the thinking that some of the light sensitivity during a migraine can be alleviated by blocking the blue light.
7. Try Computer Headache Glasses
“Computer screens are an artificial, incandescent light source with a lot of emission in the blue part of the spectrum. That’s not only bad for migraines, but that light can also mess up your body’s normal day/night rhythm,” said Dr. Bradley Katz, neuro-ophthalmologist and founder of Axon Optics said.
You can also wear special eyewear that blocks some of the blue light from a screen and reduces eye strain. There are computer glasses available on Amazon at most price points.
8. Take Frequent Breaks
Your whole body and mind will thank you for short but frequent breaks from working at your screen. Standing up and moving around every so often will take some of the pressure off of your shoulders and neck and allow the muscles to stretch out.
Breaks are also necessary to reduce the risk of developing a headache from the computer. Try practicing the 20-20-20 break: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
9. Get Your Eyes Checked
Even if you think your vision is 20/20 regular eye exams are a good idea. If you already wear glasses or contacts, an eye exam will make sure your prescription is up to date. Your eyes could change over time. Make sure you tell your optometrist that you work on a computer and that you have a migraine.
According to the nonprofit group the Vision Council, “Only 20.5% of people report having an annual eye exam and discussing their digital device usage with their eyecare provider. The Vision Council recommends individuals and their child(ren) visit an eye care provider to discuss their digital habits and what solutions are available to relieve the symptoms of digital eye strain.”
10. Keep Your Screen Clean
Use a micro cloth safe for monitors to gently wipe your screen free of dust, pet hair, and smudges. Dust reduces the sharpness of the screen making your eyes work harder than they have to. If you wear glasses, give them a wipe, too.
Light sensitivity is such a common frustration of living with Migraines, and screen light and migraines go hand in hand. Whether we like it or not, screens are becoming more and more a part of our daily lives. Reducing eye strain is key to minimizing the impact of screen time on our Migraine-prone brains. Good posture, proper lighting, and frequent breaks are essential for keeping your eyes relaxed and your day productive.
Ergodynamics and computer glasses may not be sexy, but they’re worth it for fewer migraines.