Reading on your laptop

How To Make Reading From Your Screen Easier On Your Eyes - 4 min read

If you’ve been using your laptop the whole day, you can start feeling the dreaded effects of dry eyes. This is especially relevant when you are deep in study mode, reading notes and books for a couple of hours. As a user researcher, I find that optimizing the screen on my device is one of the most important things I can do to get through the day while protecting my eyes.

Due to the type of work I do, I spend most of my day staring at my computer screen—whether it’s creating a survey, analyzing data or preparing research reports. As a result of this, my eyes can get very tired and dry, which in turn, can lead to unfocused and unproductive work. If you’re a  student with exams on the brain, I’m betting unfocused and unproductive work is pretty low on your holiday wish list.

So I’ve decided to share some tips for all you students out there about to go full study mode on how to save your eyes and with them, your exams!

Set up your environment

Studies have shown time and time again that your environment is extremely important for your productivity and behavior. So let’s make sure that your surroundings are up to par.

1. Check the amount of light you are exposed to

When you’re about to sit down to study, it’s important that you find a place that creates as little screen reflection as possible so you can read without straining your eyes. Ideally, find a place where the light is half of what you normally have, say in a classroom, and avoid having windows behind or in front of your screen.

When using lamps, try to avoid those hanging overhead because they make it harder for your eyes to focus on the screen. Instead, try using a table lamp as your main light source just like when you read printed books.

2. Choose your furniture wisely

Try to choose a comfortable piece of furniture that keeps your body comfortable and in the right posture. Your desk and chair should not only help you to be comfortable but also keep your monitor in the right place. Your chair should be cushioned and hold your back, as well as have a round edge so your legs can fold in a 90-degree angle.

3. Position your monitor, keyboard, and mouse

If you have the possibility of using a monitor when you read, make sure that the placement of it on your desk aligns with your eyes and that it’s placed approximately 60cm from your face. This will prevent you from leaning in front of the screen and getting very tired afterward. Your keyboard and mouse should be close enough to place your hands in a comfortable position, so aim for keeping them at a shoulder’s distance from each other.

Check your posture

If you plan to read for at least a couple of hours, try to make sure your back is straight, your hand and legs are at a 90-degree angle, and your neck is straight and parallel to your screen. This posture will automatically affect the way your eyes look at the screen. So while you study, keep this posture, and when it’s time for your next Netflix binge, sit back or curl up any way you like.

If you want to dig deeper into computer ergonomics, check out this article which covers important points on how to optimize your screen.

Adjust your screen

  • Change your brightness

An easy way to improve your reading experience is to modify the brightness level on your screen and the way the content is displayed. To set up the light on your screen, you can access the control panel for your screen in Mac system preferences > Display and Windows Control panel > Display. Once there, you need to drag the slider on Mac or brightness settings on Windows.

Adjusting your display on Mac

Ideally, you want to keep your brightness level light enough so that the contrast between your background and text is high. But since you’re trying to avoid too much overhead light, leaning towards the warmer side of the spectrum using night shift/night light will keep your eyes in better shape.

Adjusting your display on Windows 20
Adjusting your display on Windows

This set up makes it easier for your eyes to read for a longer period of time in your screen.

If you prefer having an app do it for you, try f.lux. It’s is a free desktop app that helps you modify your brightness and color balance according to the time of the day you use it.

  • Zoom in and keep it straight

There are two things you can do about the way the content you are reading is displayed:

  1. Zoom in to your text so that you don’t need to arch your neck too far towards the screen.
  2. Resize your window so that your eyes are not moving from side to side on your screen but instead only in that defined space.

Additional things you can do

As a final word of advice, I would recommend that any eyeglass wearers invest in some anti-reflective glare glasses. These prevent the reflection created by the screen from reaching your eyes, keeping them fresh and less tired. Along with those glasses, you may want to consider using eye drops and apply them twice a day.

Besides that, make sure you’re taking breaks every once in a while to help both your body and eyes relax after a long reading session. One easy way to do this is using the Pomodoro method, which helps you keep a steady break schedule every 25 minutes. It’s mostly intended for increased productivity, but it will also protect your eyes from using your screen for longer periods of time.

Otherwise, use this free browser extension, aptly named protect your vision which reminds you to stop looking at your screen (similar to Pomodoro) and also provides you with some eye gymnastics to keep them healthy and relaxed during your study sessions.

I hope that you’ll apply some of these tips in the future so your eyesight doesn’t take a hit from all that studying. Your eyes need all the help they can get for your exam reading!

Do you have any tips on how you read on your screen? Share them in the comments below!

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Service Designer working from beautiful Copenhagen at Lix. Here to make the study experience for students easier by getting to the core of the issues you face every day.

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