What You Need to Know About the 20-20-20 Rule

A lady sitting at a table in a Wholesale Optical Lenses Laboratory, engrossed in her laptop

In this day and age, screen time consumes most of our daily lives. If we aren’t staring at our iPhones or binging on Netflix, we’re likely focused on our desktop computers at work, or using our laptops working from home. Unfortunately, an excessive amount of screen time each day can lead to eye strain, dry eyes, and potential retinal damage. However, there is an effective way to prevent these issues, and it’s known as the 20-20-20 rule. 

What is the 20-20-20 Rule? 

In short, here are the basics of the rule: after 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, find an object that is approximately 20 feet away from you, and look at that object for 20 seconds. Seems pretty simple, right? However, you probably have a few questions. 

How Far is 20 Feet? 

Without a tape measure, how can you tell if something is 20 feet away? The point of the exercise is not to find an object that is exactly 20 feet away, but to rest your eyes on an object in the distance. For example, maybe rest your eyes on your neighbor’s house or a tree across the street. 

Why Not 10 or 30 Seconds? 

You’re also probably wondering why 20 seconds is the magic number. Eye care professionals claim it takes your eyes about 20 seconds to relax and hydrate. Keep in mind: drinking water helps hydrate your eyes as well. 

Symptoms of Eye Strain 

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, gazing at a screen isn’t going to cause damage or poor eyesight. However, too much screen time can cause eye strain, which includes the following symptoms: 

  • Dry eyes 
  • Watery eyes 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Headaches 
  • Light sensitivity 

The Research Behind the 20-20-20 Rule

A source from Healthline tells us that humans blink around 15 times each minute, but when staring at a screen, this number decreases to a half or a third of that, which leads to dry and irritated eyes. Therefore, giving your eyes routine breaks is especially important. 

Additional research from the Nepalese Journal of Ophthalmology shows that approximately 90 percent of university students in Malaysia had dry, irritated eyes after two hours of computer usage, and taking breaks decreased their eye irritation symptoms. 

Computer Vision Syndrome   

According to the American Optometric Association, the scientific term behind the eye irritation caused by screens is called Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS. Viewing a screen makes the eyes work harder compared to reading content on a printed page due to the screen’s glare and contrast of letters on the background.

In addition, the eyes are forced to focus, refocus, move back and forth, and react to varying images, which requires a great deal of effort from your eyes. Since the eyes move differently when viewing a screen, uncomfortable symptoms can occur. 

Other Ways to Prevent Eye Strain 

Besides the 20-20-20 rule, there are other ways to prevent eye strain caused by staring at a screen. Here are a few tips: 

  • Sit about an arm’s length away from your screen 
  • Dim your computer monitor’s glare 
  • Try eye drops to hydrate the eyes throughout the day 
  • Try your best to keep your screen clean 

We Are Here Every Step of the Way 

Based out of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Allentown Optical is your number one source for innovative optical equipment and products. We provide exceptional services to keep your patient’s eyes healthy, and we take pride in our research to further understand and improve the future of the optical industry. Contact us today for more information.