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computer eye strainDo you spend many hours in front of a computer screen? If you do, you’re probably familiar with the inescapable computer eye strain that comes with it. Headaches, burning eyes, itchiness and just being tired, are all symptoms of long hours of staring at a screen.

I will be the first one to tell you that the ultimate solution is to spend less time at the computer. Taking a walk or looking out the window are all effective ways to relieve eye strain. Unfortunately, we can’t always get up when we feel like it and go for a stroll. It’s also hard to remember to take breaks when we’re so engrossed in our work. So how can you remember to give your eyes some relief without totally losing your train of thought in the process?

EyeDefender [Windows]

EyeDefender operates under the same principle as many eye relief web apps – break reminders – but being a desktop app, it’s harder to get away from.

computer eye strain

The app sits in your tray, and counts down to the next break. When the time comes, you can choose from four different eye-resting activities: looking at pictures of your choosing, doing some eye exercises, activate the default screensaver or just pop up a balloon reminder (for those with excellent will power).

computer monitor eye strain

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I find the visual training to be especially useful. The screen darkens, and you get to follow the display with your eyes and move your eyes around a bit. This works even on dual monitors, and you cannot get back to work until the break is over. A definite improvement to the constant staring at a bright screen.

Workrave [Windows & Linux]

Workrave How To Save Your Neck & Back With Workrave How To Save Your Neck & Back With Workrave Read More is a nice open-source break reminder which includes reminders for micro-breaks (short), rest breaks (long) and daily limits for computer time.

computer monitor eye strain

You can set the breaks any way you want, and choose whether you want to have the option to skip or postpone the break. The break is simply a window letting you know of the break, but when it’s activated, you can’t use your computer until the break is over (or until you choose to skip or postpone).

computer monitor eye strain

During the breaks, you can get up from the computer, look away, or do some exercises the app provides in its interface.

f.lux [Windows, Mac & Linux]

If you want to relieve computer eye strain even while you work, f.lux Use F.lux To Sleep Better After Late-Night Computer Activities Use F.lux To Sleep Better After Late-Night Computer Activities Read More is an excellent solution. This well-known app automatically adapts your screen brightness to the time of day, thus preventing the eye strain which comes with staring at a very bright screen in a dark room.

eyes burning computer strain

All you have to do is set your current location, and f.lux will automatically determine what time the sun sets and will dim your display at the right moment every day. If you’re doing color-sensitive work, you can disable f.lux for one hour. This is a great way to relieve eye-strain between your resting breaks.

Sunglasses [Chrome]

Sunglasses is a cute Chrome extension which lets you control the browser’s brightness separately from the rest of your computer.

computer eye strain

Say you’re reading a lengthy article in Chrome, and at some point find the whole thing to be way too bright. Simply click the sunglasses icon on the top right, choose your new brightness and click save. You can now continue reading or working in a much darker and more soothing environment. This controls only your browser, so the general brightness settings will not be touched.

The extension also sports keyboard shortcuts if you’re a keyboard person. One thing I would like to see added is the option to set different brightness settings for different tabs.

Didn’t get enough? For some more break-reminder tools, check out Tina’s 3 Tools To Remind Yourself To Take A Break & Relax While Working At The Computer 3 Tools To Remind Yourself To Take A Break & Relax While Working At The Computer 3 Tools To Remind Yourself To Take A Break & Relax While Working At The Computer Working on the computer may not be very physical, nevertheless it's tough on your body. If you are damned to spend your working hours behind a desk, you had better find ways to do something... Read More .

How do you get relief from long hours of staring at the screen? Any innovative methods or tools? Share in the comments.

Image credit: Shutterstock

  1. Brainpup
    January 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    this link takes you to an Ad sponsered page and not to RedshiftGUI.

    • Tina
      January 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks for the catch! Apparently the link changed in the meantime.

  2. itoctopus
    January 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I lower the brightness of the laptop to the 30% of the maximum brightness, and I try to look far away in the horizon every 30 minutes or so.

    Maybe I will check f.lux

  3. Michael Lockhart
    January 3, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    I have been using Microsoft Magnifier to reverse-video the screen -- particularly helpful for programs that can't / won't change to darker themes, and toggles with a single keypress (Win+i).  f.lux looks much more useful for this though, I'll check it out.
    I found workrave to be too disruptive to my work -- I really can't take a break (or be distracted by it's nagging) in the middle of resolving client problems.
    Working at home in a shed in the back yard affords me opportunities to get out for fresh air and regular short walks. Recommended if you are able to.

    • Yaara
      January 4, 2012 at 5:43 am

      Magnifier is a good tool, I've written about it in a different article.

      I do think f.lux can do a better job when it comes to dimming brightness, as it does so automatically and according to sunrise and sunset.

      Working out of a shed sounds awesome. I have a small balcony which I try to visit every once in a while, but living on the 8th floor, I can't take walks as often as I would want.

  4. Maw74656
    January 3, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Will this even help if I'm in an inside room with no windows?

    • Yaara
      January 3, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      Well, there are other problems that arise when you work in a windowless room, but I'm sure it will help relieve your screen-related eye strain anyway, which might solve part of the problem.

  5. Yaara
    January 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Never heard of this one, thanks!

  6. Yaara
    January 3, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Thanks!

  7. Anonymous
    January 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    great article

  8. Marta Daniels
    January 3, 2012 at 2:32 am

    Perhaps this is why my contacts freak out after a long day on the computer? I'll have to try one of these babies out!

    • Yaara
      January 3, 2012 at 7:25 am

      That could be. I never had contacts, but I know by eyes freak sometimes after a long day on the computer, so I bet it can happen with contacts.

  9. Tony Neria
    January 3, 2012 at 1:19 am

    The thing that saved me, as a person who is nearsighted, was to go to an optometrist and get a prescription for glasses that I use only for my computer. It has made a world of difference.

    • Yaara
      January 3, 2012 at 7:27 am

      Oh wow, never thought of that. I'll keep that in mind!

  10. Nursing Jobs
    January 3, 2012 at 12:00 am

    So basically I can just change my screen brightness.

    • Yaara
      January 3, 2012 at 7:24 am

      If you want to tinker with it all the time, you sure can! You can also just take breaks. These apps just make it easier.

  11. Dave
    January 2, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    If you use Chrome Browser you might like an add on called 'Readability Redux'.
    I have cataracs so I set it to a white font with a black background. Fantastic, I can actually read articles without a problem now. No strain, very clear. 
    Will try f.lux as bright screens fry my eyes.
    Cheers...Dave

    • @dave
      January 3, 2012 at 2:34 am

      I like that idea but even better I do not read the screen my screeen reader does it for me cheers no eye strain if i do u want to read I do not have to that is if the web page accessble

    • Yaara
      January 3, 2012 at 7:23 am

      Thanks for the recommendation! Readability Redux looks awesome. I've known Readability for a while, but haven't tried this one yet. Will definitely check it out!

  12. Joel Lee
    January 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Came here for f.lux and was not disappointed. This is a MUST HAVE program!

    I used to have strained and exhausted eyeballs which led to chronic headaches, blurred vision, and irregular sleep habits. Within a week of installing f.lux, those problems were gone.

    Cannot recommend highly enough!

    • Yaara
      January 2, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      I absolutely love f.lux. It's amazing how much easier it is to work at night. When I have to turn it off for some reason, I'm shocked to think I once had to work like THAT. :)

    • Aibek
      January 3, 2012 at 4:50 am

      I am now wondering if we should add it to our Best Windows Software page. http://www.makeuseof.com/pages/best-windows-software

      • Yaara
        January 3, 2012 at 7:19 am

        If it's not there, I say we definitely should. It's one of my must-haves.

        • Aibek
          January 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm

          thanks Yaraa, will deinfitely add it to the page on the next update

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