Do your eyes hurt after a long gaming session? Some irritation is unavoidable when spending countless hours in front of a screen, but there are many ways to help reduce it. We’ve compiled seven different strategies you can try together or separately to reduce video game eye strain.
Note: Get Your Eyes Checked Regularly
Please do not follow the general tips in this guide in place of seeing an eye doctor regularly. None of the advice in this article will help if the main culprit is an underlying health condition or you need a new glasses prescription.
1. Follow the 20-20-20 Rule
Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet or more away from you for 20 seconds.
You’ve likely heard this advice before but have you actually tried it? The general idea is to give your eyes a break regularly from focusing so intensely on a screen. Even if you can’t follow the rule to a T, making a conscious effort to look across the room or out a nearby window during a loading screen can go a long way.
2. Check Your Ergonomics
Optimizing the distance and angle between your eyes and the screen can help relieve video game eye strain and also improve your posture.
Distance From Screen
For PC gamers, the AAO (American Academy of Opthalmology) recommends that your eyes are about 25 inches from the screen. Console gamers should sit a comfortable distance away from their TVs with some eye care professionals recommend sitting approximately 8-10 feet away. Mobile gamers should hold their phones at least 16-18 inches away from their faces.
Position your screen so that it’s at either eye level or slightly below. When your screen is too high, it engages your neck and vertical eye muscles unnecessarily and leads to fatigue. When your screen is too low, you’ll tilt your neck forward, hunch over, and mess up your posture. Installing an adjustable monitor arm can give you additional maneuverability if your current monitor stand can’t.
3. Keep Your Eyes Lubricated
The reason we have dry eyes after a long gaming session is we tend to blink a lot less when we’re focused on a digital screen. Unless you can make yourself blink more often (which the AAO suggests), try refreshing your eyes with lubricating eye drops whenever it feels dry.
These types of eye drops are also called artificial tears because they’re designed to replicate the natural moisture in your eyes. We recommending keeping a bottle of these handy around your gaming area.
4. Adjust Your Lighting
You probably don’t need us to tell you that you shouldn’t play video games in the dark. But is your environment bright enough? When your screen glows brighter than your surroundings, your eyes have to work much harder to see.
Making sure your room is adequately lit is the first step. That means opening the windows during the day, adding a new floor lamp, replacing dim light bulbs, and whatever else it takes.
Besides a sufficient amount of light, its position also matters. Try adding bias lighting, a light source behind your computer monitor or TV for a soothing backlight. Bias lighting helps even out the lighting in your immediate field of view and also looks quite nice.
Merely placing a lamp behind your screen works or you can try a slicker option like in our pictured example. The owner mounted three Philips Hue Play bars to the back of his monitors so he could keep it “classy by day, flashy by night”.
One thing to keep in mind as you light up your room is minimizing glare, another pesky cause of eye strain. Light sources directly above or behind your screen are the usual suspects there.
5. Lower Your Screen Brightness
If your room is well-lit but you still feel like you’re staring into a shining beacon of light, your screen might just be too bright. Adjust your brightness settings so that your screen produces even lighting in comparison to your surroundings throughout the day. An added benefit of lowering your screen brightness is less blue light exposure.
What’s Blue Light?
Tips five through seven all mention blue light so we thought we’d share a quick explanation. Researchers have found that blue light, the short-wavelength light produced by both the sun and the LED lights in our digital screens, suppresses melatonin and hampers sleep quality. That’s why optometrists recommend limiting how much blue light we get at night.
While the link between blue light and eye strain hasn’t been proven, many people report immediate relief when reducing their exposure to blue light at night.
6. Use “Night Modes”
On Windows 10 and Android, it’s called Night Light. On macOS and iOS, it’s called Night Shift. All of our devices have a night mode for a reason. Our eyes weren’t meant to see bright white lights akin to the sun all the way up until bedtime. Activating night mode on your devices filters out blue light and warms up the color temperature of your screen. Your screen will look much yellower than usual, but most people find it easier on their eyes at night.
The free software, F.lux, takes night mode a step further and automatically adjusts the color temperature of your screen depending on the time of day. F.lux also gives you different presets such as “movie mode” and “color fidelity” depending on your current activity.
Note: Many operating systems and apps now also offer a dark mode which can get confusing because it sounds similar to “night mode”. Instead of filtering out blue light, dark mode completely switches out light-colored themes for dark colors. It can be used in conjunction with night mode for maximum benefit.
7. Wear Gaming Glasses
Similar to night modes, gaming glasses help filter out blue light. They are especially useful when those night mode settings aren’t available on certain devices (like your TV) or compatible with certain programs/games. To learn more, we have an article explaining what gaming glasses do and a roundup review of the best gaming glasses available.