Myopia (short-sightedness) is caused by a mix of genes and environmental factors. Its prevalence and severity is increasing at shocking rates, and we need to better understand the environmental kindling that is fuelling this fire.
Why is this important when you can just wear glasses to 'fix it'? Because the higher your myopic prescription, the more at risk you are of eye diseases when you’re older, some of which can cause blindness. And because thick lenses are really annoying!
Research seems to agree that 2 broad factors relate to the cause of myopia degeneration: near work (e.g. looking at screens) and lack of time spent outdoors in daylight. Some researchers are also looking into sleep and diet as factors.
Based on this, we’ve come up with a list of ideas that could help control the situation. And YES, some of them are just ideas, because science doesn’t have all the answers for us just yet.
- Give audio books/formats a go where you can, like podcasts. They’re not for everyone, but if you’re an auditory learner (someone who takes in information best by listening) then it could also be more efficient.
- If your job involves tons of online meetings, it might be worth getting off your laptop and setting up a space that’s more like a meeting room, with your TV and a smart camera. Or even get a projector. If you’ve got kids that are taking classes online, the same thing applies.
- When you’re working on screens, don’t strain yourself looking at tiny details. Make fonts bigger using your settings, and zoom in more.
- Look into what eye comfort modes your phone and devices have, like default font sizes.
- If you’re doing something on a screen, ask yourself if you could be doing it on a different device that offers you more eye comfort. Watch Netflix on your laptop, not your mobile.
- Try minimise your screen time. Are you working way beyond your hours at work, for little in return? Or lost in a cat video black hole on YouTube? Be a bit more aware of the impact that screen time might be making on your sight.
- Think about the tasks you do on a screen. Are you spending hours online shopping? Switch it up and get out to the shops more.
- Consider what you do for a job, and the type of tasks you pick up e.g. if you have the choice of being delegated desk research V field research, take the opportunity to get off your laptop.
- Take breaks from near work and use the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away in the distance, for 20 seconds. Write a post-it reminder and put it above your working space or tie it in with another habit like drinking enough water. Stick at it as habits take a while to form.
- Make sure you’re not straining your eyes by sitting in bad lighting.
- Could you make more calls and send more voice notes? Anything that cuts down on the amount of messages you’re writing (and therefore creates less near work) could help.
- Work outside more. Why not have some work calls sat outside in the garden?
- Try sit near a window or somewhere that has lots of natural light when you’re working or doing activities.
- Get outside more.
- Treat yourself to some nice outdoor coats and boots. Wrap up - don’t let being cold put you off.
- If you’re researching nurseries for your small humans, make sure time spent playing outdoors and the outside space is a key factor.
- Change the time you walk the dog, or pop to the shops so it’s not in darkness.
- Quit the gym! Get outside on your bike or look for outdoor classes and sports instead.
- Wear your blumin' specs! And make sure the prescription is right. Studies show that not correcting your eyesight with glasses can speed up deterioration.
- Get specs you actually like and will wear. Buy more specs that go with different occasions - don’t just have one pair. Make them part of your wardrobe and style.
- Change your sleeping patterns so you’re awake more in daylight, especially in winter.
- And finally, get enough sleep, eat well, and look after yourself. It can’t hurt.
Let us know if you have any other ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And for the ‘why’ answers to some of these points, take a look at The High Myopia Problem.