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What does Screen Fatigue feel like?

Imagine, if you will, feeling as if an invisible force is slowly squeezing your head.

And it’s applying just enough pressure to be annoying but not painful. It’s probably making you feel a bit irritable.

Your head feels tight, your eyebrows are scrunched up, your facial muscles are becoming more rigid, and you have that inner tiredness.

Chances are you also feel uncomfortable in your chair, your body is heavy, and you simply need a break away from the PC as you struggle to focus.

But you can’t leave, as you still have the afternoon to get through with at least one more zoom meeting.

 

Walking to the door and back gives minimal relief, as the symptoms start again as soon as you sit down.

You’ve tried coffee to keep you going.  You have a bottle of water by your side, and maybe you are one of the lucky ones that get to go outside for their lunch and away from the office glare – that glare that no matter how many times you try and readjust your pc, always seems to be bouncing off your over bright screen.

As the afternoon wears on, the tightness in your head begins to build up into a headache, and you know that soon your eyes will start to feel tired and dry. Some of you will feel as if they are burning around the edges.

You start to rub your eyes often; you’re yawning and feel uncomfortable.

You manage to get through the zoom meeting, but you notice that the screen is getting a bit blurry, and by the end of the call, you see two of each attendant.

 

You sit back and try and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, but it only brings minimal relief.

And by the end of the day, you are physically drained, mentally tired and want to get home.

Where you might chill with a glass of wine, spend the evening looking at more screens, and then doom scrolling lying in bed until the small hours, feeling drained but too wired to sleep.

And then you get up the following day and repeat.

You spend your time willing the weekend to arrive so that you don’t have to sit in front of your digital display screen feeling frazzled and sore because your screen hasn’t been individualised for you.

 

It is, in fact, harming your wellbeing.

This is what screen fatigue – or computer vision syndrome feels like.

Your eye muscles are fatigued from the screen. A screen that’s comprised of a bright white background with high colour contrasts and probably a decent amount of glare.

This tires the entire visual system that then starts to deplete the body, mistakes are made, and productivity decreases. Still, sleep procrastination goes up, and there you are, on the hamster wheel of screen fatigue, not knowing what’s wrong but knowing things are not right.

If this describes you, click here to go to our self help page and make the adjustments to your screen that we suggest.

Then sign up for the individualised colour contrast validation tool because your body and mind need all the help they can get.

These are a few steps to improving your wellbeing, productivity, and maybe even your sleep. And all in, it won’t take longer than 30 minutes, but they’ll be the best 30 minutes you’ve spent on your screen for a long time.

 

And don’t just take our word for it.

Read a couple of case studies from people that have found a world of difference when they started using the correct, individualised colour contrast background, for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scanning versus reading. Is there a difference?

(Yes, and why we prefer scanning over reading may surprise you.)

Scanning; we all do it, especially when scrolling through social media or skimming through a post. We visually bounce from word to word to understand the ‘gist’ of what’s being conveyed.

Scanning involves the internal recognition of letters and words, and it identifies patterns of text. So, it is not necessarily about comprehension (though that does happen).

It closely mimics a user’s natural reading speed for personal consumption, which is important to note. However, reading speed is reduced when the user is asked to read the entire text and then reduced further when reading aloud.

Reading aloud is a less fluid process, as vocalising words lags behind the brain predicting what’s next and modifying what’s being spoken as a result.

Looking ahead can cause incorrect predictions, leading to some stumbling over words, especially for slow readers.

Interestingly, “If you watch a person’s eyes scanning text at a normal rate, the eyes seem to be ahead of the voice when we read aloud.”

Diving deeper into the science of scanning:

Rayner and Pollatsek, two researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spent 20 years studying how the eye moves when reading. They discovered that it fixates on what they call content words, e.g., nouns and verbs in a quick succession of stops and jumps called fixation and saccades

A saccade “is a rapid, conjugate eye movement that shifts the center of gaze from one part of the visual field to another. Saccades are used for orienting gaze towards an object of interest. Saccades may be horizontal, vertical, or oblique.”

Imotions.com describe the fixation as “Between saccades, our eyes remain still for around 200-300 ms – this known as a fixation (“still” is a bit of a relative term here – our eyes often continue to move around as a result of optokinetic nystagmus, which aids visual processing in the brain).”

image of text showing eye movement of scanning
Showing the eye focus when scanning

(Image from readingrockets.org )

Why do our eyes jump around like this?

Up-close we have a very narrow field of vision.

Try looking at both of someone’s eyes at the same time without flicking from one to the other. This narrow field makes us very sensitive to misalignment and being uncomfortable when wondering which of their eyes is looking at us.

Even when reading, our eyes move around to take in a larger view.

If you can scan quickly and easily, your eyes are not only seeing the text easily, but you are interpreting the text efficiently and with a degree of visual comfort. 

Reading, on the other hand, is comprehending the words.

If it’s silent reading, it can include creating visual images to help understand the words, and we can often ‘hear’ the word in our heads. So, for example, when you read a novel, you’ll imagine the characters in your mind; you might even imagine how their voices sound.

Reading, primarily when out loud, engages the brain and the vocal system and, to a degree, comprehension.

However, with reading out loud before reading silently, there is a difference in understanding, with a greater degree of comprehension gained from silent reading first.

Ok, so why are we telling you all this?  

When our software is choosing the individualised contrast colour background to text for your digital display screen, we are looking at set data to find the “one” most visually comfortable or accessible colour contrast for you.

One that aids in your scanning and reading.  

The correct colour contrast does this by helping sustain the synchronicity of both eyes, mitigating binocular discomfort and loss of stereoscopic vision due to eye muscle fatigue.

It’s a fatigue that presents as early-onset blurred or double vision.

Different coloured backgounds for the same texts
black text with different coloured backgrounds

Here’s (very simply) how it works:

There are two primary types of photoreceptors in the human retina – rods and cones.

Rods are responsible for vision at low light levels (scotopic vision). They do not mediate colour vision and have a low spatial acuity.

Rods don’t help with colour vision, which is why at night, we see everything in grayscale. The human eye has over 100 million rod cells. Cones require a lot more light and they are used to see colour.”

Cones are active at higher light levels (photopic vision), are capable of colour vision and are responsible for high spatial acuity.

The correct colour contrast background aids in your scanning and reading by engaging the colour “cones” in the eyes, as opposed to the monochrome rods.

It’s about your individual photopic sensitivity.  

Photopic sensitivity refers to visual sensitivity under conditions of bright light, where radiant energy stimulates the cones  – the retinal photoreceptors responsible for colour perception.

The cones, with their high acuity, are better placed to deal with text but are not invoked by black on white text.

Black text on a bright white computer screen only turns up the volume of any discomfort or fatigue.

Bringing in the colour contrast background brings the cones to the party and help you read and scan much more easily.

Now to your screens:

 The visual system (eyesight) is effectively disabled by “Glare”. Think of how you screw up your eyes and want to look away at bright headlights in the dark.

If there is also photophobic flickering light, or very high contrast and/or very low contrast that causes discomfort, prompting visual stress with avoidance strategies such as looking away, natural “adaptations” due to eyestrain will appear.

They must, as your body is trying to defend itself.

The warning signals of this will be loud and clear – pain, headaches, blurry or worse double vision, dizziness, migraine, even nausea and vomiting.

These signals should not be ignored.  

 Every individual and display screen for that matter is different, so it is simply a question of matching the screen colour contrast settings/calibration to the user operators most comfortable, expressed by RGB background screen colour values or HEX number.

By analysing the eye systems responses, we look for any evidence of eye muscle fatigue. We measure screen to brain sets of functions and timescales – namely the focus and refocus of the eye muscles and look at any deficits in speed when scanning.

We’ve found the simplest way to do this is to use a block of no-sense text. This prevents the individual’s natural capacity “for predicting what comes next”, to allow repeat scanning of the same subject matter without becoming familiar with its content.

“With the DSO scanning challenge, we are looking at specific data points, and we are looking at the speed of scanning, as this simply points towards gains in accessibility, comfort and ease”.

 The gains in accessibility to text on-screen, increase comprehensibility, increase the comfort within your visual system for longer and reduces the risk of early-onset eyestrain, mitigating vision system deterioration.

Until our brains are chipped to interface with our computers directly to the screen, users will still need to use their eyes to read.

Until that day, users contend with screen brightness, glare, colour contrasts, and moving images, all of which can overexcite the visual system and cause fatigue, which leads to all the symptoms of screen fatigue/computer vision syndrome.

We aim to calm the visual system more than aid in dyslexia/comprehension by bringing on board the cones to help the eyes to focus and refocus, not leaving the poor rods to do all the heavy lifting.

That it helps in these areas too is a bonus.

In optometry terms, we aim to increase binocular stability, as we all know looking at a screen for too long causes binocular instability, essentially visual fatigue.

(Anecdotally, we notice an average 20% gain in accessibility/reduction in eyestrain and risk of screen fatigue / CVS by using the DSO, which is being investigated further in our clinical trials.)

What about biometrics?

We currently use AI to drive the DSO, and soon we will be adding biometrics screening and voice recognition to next-generation packages of Score My Screen.

Do you need an eye test, or is it your computer screen?

Did you know that 13.4 million eye tests took place in 2019?

74% of people in the UK either wear corrective eyewear or have had laser eye surgery to help them see better.’

But, in a recent study  to find out why many were not having eye tests, the reasons given were:

My vision hasn’t changed – 31%

COVID – 19%

Too expensive – 18%

Not having the time – 13%

Eye tests UK
Survey results eye exam UK

 

COVID – I think we can all understand that one!

Cost – Another understandable one.

The price can be eyewatering. Without the glass, frames can be £80-£90 if not in the designer range. And that’s before the test, before the lenses and the upsells of scratch proofing, glare resistance etc.!

Probably not much change from £200 once it’s all added up?

Specsavers (we are not affiliated) have a great page with all the pricing and frames available so you can budget before you step instore.  (We have some advice regarding the cost later in the post).

Plus, a quick Google of cheap glasses brings up plenty of websites – however, caveat emptor! Buyer beware!

But back to you.

Are you experiencing changes or difficulty with your vision?

Are you noticing you can’t see the food on your plate so well, or your eyes are burning and sore at the end of the day?

If so, now is the time to channel your inner Sherlock and get on the case of:

 

Do you need an eye test, or do you need to mitigate against screen fatigue, also known as computer vision syndrome and computer eye strain?

 

And how can you tell the difference?

 

If you need an eye test, these are the general symptoms – and you will notice them most of the time:

  • Headaches when reading or looking at your computer screen.
  • Having trouble reading or seeing the computer screen or television
  • Getting double vision
  • Difficulty with colour discrimination
  • Difficulty when driving
  • Difficulty with glare
  • Difficulty with night vision
  • Mobility problems especially bumping into or tripping over objects, particularly those on one side.
  • Changes in your vision.

 

Now, here’s something you probably didn’t know regarding the cost:

“If you must spend some of your working days using a display screen (or are due to start using a screen), then you are entitled to an eye test paid for by your employer”. Unison

Yup – straight away, that’s roughly £25 you won’t have to fork out.

Then, if you do need glasses for your job – you might be eligible to have those paid for you as required PPE– again, Unison have the details:

“If an eye test shows that you need to wear glasses when using a visual display, then your employer is obliged to pay for your glasses.

Even if you need glasses for other work activities, your UNISON rep may be able to help you get financial support towards the cost of glasses.”

Not bad, eh?  Certainly, worth investigating.

 

 

Is it computer eye strain, computer vision syndrome or screen fatigue?

Sore eyes
Sore dry eyes due to computer eye strain

(Remember it’s all the same thing – it’s just so bad they named it three times)

 

Screen fatigue is the name given to a cluster of symptoms that arise from looking at a digital screen for prolonged periods.

The symptoms are generally:

  • Eyestrain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Overall tiredness with reduced productivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Sore, stiff neck and shoulders
  • Struggling to see

There is a difference between needing an eye test and suffering from screen fatigue and you will need to decide, but generally, when requiring an eye examination for disease, the visual problems will be progressive and constant.

Bear in mind :

There is a difference is between age-related disease and induced repetitive stress injuries causing dis-ease and stress-related adaptations from visual suppression to asthenopia

With screen fatigue, if you give yourself a break for the screen and follow the tips we have laid out on the website, the risk of visual repetitive stress injuries and symptoms will be mitigated or significantly reduced. Often the symptoms will disappear while you are away from your screen, only to re-appear like an evil genie once you are back on.

And of course, we have some advice for this as well.

Having an individualised Display Screen Optimiser is another option to consider.

The ‘optimiser’ creates the optimal coloured background for your digital display screen. It’s 100% geared towards your needs. It reduces screen fatigue/ computer eye strain/ computer vision syndrome (Why can’t there be one name for it??) and increase productivity.

Well, it would, because suddenly you’re not hampered with the symptoms mentioned above.

Plus, spending £1 on the individualised optimiser is an excellent investment for your eyesight.

 

We would strongly suggest that you look after your eyesight, have regular check-ups with an optician, and use the tips and Display Screen Optimiser.

This way, you will reduce the harms of working all day on a screen, and perhaps when you go along for your wellbeing eye test, you won’t need a new prescription?