Here's Why Your Eyes Get So Tired, According To An Optometrist

Even when you wake up feeling well-rested and ready to take on the day, you may find your eyes getting heavy as the hours pass. In an exclusive chat, Health Digest spoke with Dr. James Dello Russo, an optometrist of 21 years and Director of the New Jersey Eye Center, a multi-specialty eye and surgical center. He explained why it is that our eyes may become progressively more fatigued throughout the day.

"There are several causes of tiredness of the eyes that can cause eye fatigue or eye strain," he states. "Device use, reading, or long drives tax the eyes after prolonged periods of intense visual tasks and eye use," he says. "Working in poor light or overly bright light may also contribute to eye strain and fatigue." In addition, Dr. Dello Russo notes that sleep disorders or a poor night's rest may also be contributing factors. The same is true for certain eye conditions. "Dry eyes or contact lens overwear can also exacerbate dry eyes, which can also produce symptoms of tired eyes," he explains.

"Some common symptoms of eye strain are focusing issues, or blurred vision," says Dr. Dello Russo. He explains that when the ocular muscles are fatigued, double vision can occur even during the most near-sighted of tasks. "Soreness of the eyes or dull eye pain are also common," he says.

The role of electronic devices

"Increasingly, people live behind their screens," Dr. Dello Russo points out. "Outside of work or school, young adults spend upwards of seven hours on devices for entertainment and leisure time." He goes on to tell us exclusively that these activities can take a significant toll on our eyes. "This much time spent focusing on electronic devices can fatigue the visual system and also contribute to dry eye symptoms," he states. "When we stare at screens, we blink fifty percent less, and blinking plays a vital part in tear production to refresh the ocular surface."

However, Dr. Dello Russo emphasizes that there are measures we can take to help protect our eyes against strain and fatigue when it comes to device use. "With digital devices, adjusting the brightness setting to a lower setting may help reduce glare," he suggests. "Having a larger-sized monitor will facilitate better focus, and positioning the screen slightly below eye level a minimum of 21 inches away can help [with] focusing," he explains. Even with these measures in place, Dr. Dello Russo notes that time spent looking away from screens is still important. "After twenty minutes of screen time, you want to spend a minimum of twenty seconds looking at an object 20 feet in the distance to relax the accommodative system."

Tips for reducing glare and blue light exposure

Dr. Dello Russo goes on to tell Health Digest, "Newer [computer] monitors have anti-glare features or eye wear can have anti-glare properties that limit glare and UV light exposure." He says this is achieved through the type of lenses used. "There are also various branded lenses that have blue light protection, which can help reduce high energy visible light produced from screens that cause glare and eye fatigue," he states.

In addition, Dr. Dello Russo explains that use of blue light-reducing lenses may also benefit our sleep. "Blue light-reducing lenses block chromatic and spherical aberration that can fatigue the eyes and also affect our body's circadian rhythms and sleep, wake cycles," he says. "By minimizing blue light exposure, we can help our biological clocks let our bodies become more relaxed and fall asleep easier at night."

As Dr. Dello Russo wraps up our conversation, he offers some additional tips to help keep our eyes in tip-top shape. "To help better manage eye strain, there are some good steps to help enhance visual hygiene," he says. "Reading books in good light and with current eyeglass prescriptions when indicated will help keep you in focus," he states. "Be sure to work in proper lighting, and don't skip your routine eye exams; undiagnosed refractive error or muscle imbalances are very important for comfortable vision."