If you’ve ever experienced discomfort in your eye, headaches, or even tired eyes after spending time on your computer screen, the 20-20-20 rule can help. A new study from Aston University says that giving your eye at least 20 seconds of rest from a computer screen has a positive impact on eye strain and dry eyes.

Nowadays, this approach has become increasingly popular and widely recommended among eye doctors. Researchers suggest briefly looking away from the screen for at least 20 seconds into an object of at least 20 feet away after working 20mins at stretch on a computer screen. 

A prior study, however, has confirmed this rule as a simple strategy for relieving eye strain but failed to ensure the participants heeded to instructions. This prompted the study authors to investigate the effectiveness of this rule on overall eye health while monitoring the participants by employing special computer software installed on their laptops.

Methodology

In the new study, researchers examined over 29 participants above the age of 18 that were found to be vibrant computer users. Special software was installed in their laptops to record the gaze on the screen every few seconds when in front of the screen and tended to reset once the user looked away. There’s a beeper set to notify the user to take a 20 seconds rest after 20mins elapsed by focusing on a target 20 feet away. In addition, the beeper cannot be removed and only ceased when performed correctly. The software also took into account the number of blinking, but without prior notice to the participant to avoid influencing the outcome of the result. 

Along with the distance between the eyes and the computer screen, the overall measurements of the eye condition were taken before and after turning on the rule.

Results

The team found out that the average time spent on the computer screen was largely reduced per day after applying the 20-20-20 rule. Likewise, eye symptoms such as dryness, discomfort, and sensitivity were resolved. Although, the progress lasted only a week and reverted to the previous condition after the rule was stopped.

Despite the natural tendency to look away from the computer screen, the rule stops one from staring at the screen for no longer than 20 mins. This is because prolonged staring at the computer screen causes one to forget to blink more than usual. As a result, the eye is deprived of sufficient tears to lubricate the eye — causing dry eye and eye strain.

Although study authors found that the approach had no impact on the blinking rate. Even so, researchers conclude that limiting screen time altogether may prove more beneficial to eye health.

However, since the software was only downloaded onto the participant’s laptop, the study authors were unable to account for the use of other screens by the participants within the study. The researchers encourage applying the rule on even phones and tablets by setting timers as a form of reminder.

The study authors see the need to verify the study on a larger group of participants as well as compare the power of the 20-20-20 rule across diverse computer users.

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