Let’s not forget ‘visual breaks’ at work

Let’s not forget ‘visual breaks’ at work

Sunday, November 5, 2023, 11:12 p.m.

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We have already assumed that it is bad to spend eight hours sitting at work without taking breaks because a sedentary lifestyle is the source of numerous health problems. We try to get up every once in a while, stretch, walk a little, do a couple of exercises to avoid back and neck contractures. What we are not so aware of yet is that it is also essential to do visual breaks and eye exercises. The occupational health prevention services of some communities – including that of the Basque Country – have launched campaigns to remember this healthy habit.

The eye muscles do not get tired. «They are some of the fastest in our body. They are prepared to contract and relax continuously and perform this task without causing fatigue,” say Juana Gallar and María del Carmen Acosta, professors of Physiology and researchers at the Neurosciences Institute of the Miguel Hernández University. There is also no exhaustion in our retina, a structure capable of working for hours and hours, day after day.

In reality, what we call ‘eye fatigue’ is “a sum of sensations of discomfort and irritation derived from dry eyes – which is produced by keeping the eyes open for a long time – and slightly blurred vision due, in part, to that same dryness and focusing problems,” they add.

This ‘computer visual syndrome’, as it is also known, has grown in recent years, warn the Spanish Society of Ophthalmology. “It affects around 90% of people who use the computer for more than three hours a day,” they say. But it can be prevented with a series of habits that the experts detail.


When we perform a task with electronic devices, our blinking frequency decreases so that we do not lose sight of anything. «The function of blinking is to protect the eye, but also to renew and distribute the tear film that hydrates and nourishes the ocular surface. Therefore, if our blinking frequency decreases, our eyes dry out and irritation appears,” say university professors and researchers. The problem is aggravated if we have low tear production, work in a dry environment (with air conditioning) or wear contact lenses. Dryness makes the eyes red and uncomfortable and, in extreme cases, can also cause eye pain and headaches.

The recommendation is to voluntarily increase our blinking frequency or use artificial tears to compensate for dry eyes. One trick: put a note on your computer that serves as a reminder to blink.

Rest every 20 minutes

It is important to take breaks of about 5 minutes every 20 or 25 minutes of activity in front of a screen. During these pauses you have to take your eyes off the screen and observe other objects at different distances. If possible, it is advisable to look out the window to take your eyes into the distance, it helps the eye muscles relax.

Place the screen correctly

The higher the screen is, the more open our eyes will be, which will help evaporate that film of tears that covers the surface of the eye and increase the problem of dryness. The Spanish Society of Ophthalmology specifies that the upper frame of the screen must be at the height of our eyes or nose and the distance between the eyes and the screen: between 50 and 60 centimeters.

Optimal light

“If it is during the day, it is better to use a natural light source and, at night, avoid lamps or spotlights pointing directly at the eyes,” says the group of ophthalmologists. Filters that protect against blue light are not necessary, “There is a widespread belief that blue light from device screens causes ‘fatigue’ and even eye damage. However, our eye is prepared to work with this and other wavelengths,” the researchers complete.

Those responsible for occupational health currently place special emphasis on these breaks in their campaigns.

Move your eyes and massage

One of the most effective exercises: relax while you observe, with your head still, your own index finger drawing the shape of an eight lying in the air (symbol of infinity). At the same time that we move the finger (at a distance of approximately 25 or 30 centimeters), we follow the tip of the finger with our eyes and without moving our head. We achieve a greater effect if we do this exercise very slowly, while trying to relax our breathing.

It is also effective to dedicate a few minutes of our rest during the work day to massaging the eye area. The technique consists of closing them, placing the tips of your fingers about a centimeter above the eyebrows and making gentle circles for a few seconds. In addition, we can lengthen the massage by stretching the eyebrows with our hands from the inside out.

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