Think outside the box: How to protect your eyes while watching television

Nov 20, 2020 in Eye Care

father and daughter watching festive tv by the fire

We can all be guilty, during the dark winter months, of spending our evenings and weekends glued to the gogglebox. Thanks to on-demand services like Netflix, box-set binging has never been more tempting.

On average, we each watch 40 hours of TV over the festive period period in Britain*. With so much good TV at our fingertips, it’s easy to forget that age-old adage about the effects TV on our eyesight. One of the biggest impacts is eye strain. You may hear someone saying they have “sore eyes” from watching too much TV.

While your eyes won’t go square from watching too much telly, your vision can start to suffer: eye strain, dry eyes, headaches. So, with ‘streaming season’ well underway, here are our top tips for screen eye care to avoid sore eyes.

Give it some room

One of the most common mistakes we make is sitting too close to the TV screen. With large, high-definition screens commonplace in most living rooms, there’s no need to sit pupil-to-pixel. Space is your friend when you’re seeking to prevent eye strain.

For a 40-inch TV, position yourself around 6-9 feet (approx. 2-3m) from your screen. A 50-inch display will allow you to move slightly further back, to 7-11 feet (approx. 2-3.5m). Be pragmatic though – if you find yourself squinting at a distant screen, or you feel you’re so close, your eyes are straining, adjust your spacing to improve your comfort or to eliminate these symptoms.

Consider the lighting

As much as the earnest home-cinema aficionado will seek to replicate the low-lit ambiance of the local movie theatre, watching TV in the dark is to be avoided. Some ambient lighting is recommended to avoid eye strain.

Watching a small, bright object in an otherwise dark room can be particularly straining on your eyes. When the room is in the dark, your pupils are wide open or “dilated”, allowing lots of light to enter. Similar to shining a torch in your face at night, watching a TV or phone screen in the dark allows the light to penetrate into your pupil more easily, causing pain and eye strain due to glare.

Consider a lamp in the corner or turning on the main light in the room to help your eyes. Trust us, you’ll be able to keep up with the latest festive favourites for longer.

TV Glasses

Just as some of us have reading glasses to hand, having a pair of glasses to watch television can help to improve your vision and reduce eye strain, therefore creating a more comfortable visual experience. Follow your optician's advice, if you have prescription glasses, you may be recommended to wear them when watching television. If your optometrists has recommended you wear your glasses for distance tasks, consider asking about using them for the TV as well.

You may find an antireflection coating on your glasses helps improve visual comfort and provides you with an antiglare effect when using screens and reduces eye strain over long periods. Make sure to ask your Qualified Dispensing Optician about how antireflection coating could help you.

We always encourage you to wear suitable glasses when doing activities and to follow the advice given by your Qualified Dispensing Optician in practice.

Room to manoeuvre

Alongside screen size,the placement of the TV compared to windows can affect visual comfort. For longer viewing stints, it’s worthwhile drawing the curtains to minimise glare on the screen.

The next question is where you choose to put your TV. Wall brackets or stands are typically the go-to choices for those seeking a neat and tidy solution – but it’s important to keep the TV level to the line of your eyesight. This prevents you from craning your neck and looking upwards, which can strain eye muscles.

Break free

When you’re deep into season 4,000 of the latest transatlantic TV sensation, the thought of taking a break from the nerve-shredding tension may seem impossible. But, if you can take a break away from the screen, your eyes will thank you for it. There’s a simple rule which can be helpful to remember: 20-20-20.

After 20 minutes of screen viewing (that goes for TV or computer screens), take a 20 second break and look at something around 20 feet away. This quick optical exercise will keep your eye muscles fighting fit and maximise comfort to your vision.

Eat. Sleep. Drink. Repeat.

You might think a sedentary pursuit like watching TV wouldn’t require peak fitness. And while you’d be right, that doesn’t mean you can forget about your diet and sleeping patterns entirely. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water is vital for overall optical health and avoiding eye strain or dry eyes. It is especially important if you plan to indulge in lengthy sofa sessions this festive period. The same goes for your diet – eating a balanced diet is great for your optical wellbeing.

Finally, even after the most strenuous of box-set binging marathons, rest and recuperation might not seem necessary. But your eyes will need time to recover, so getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep is highly recommended.

Check out a check-up

If you are watching TV for long periods and are concerned about your eye health, we advise you to have regular eye examinations. Consult your local Leightons Optometrist if you begin to encounter headaches, blurred vision or dry eyes. Your Optometrist may also recommend eye exercises or new glasses to benefit the health of your eyes and vision.

Here at Leightons, we think our eyes are worth looking after.

* Survey, 2017

Book an eye examination

If you need an Eye Examination, or help with any optical condition, we’re open and here to help this festive season. Find your nearest branch, book an appointment online or call our Dedicated Patient Support team on 0800 40 20 20.