6 Ways You’re Straining Your Eyes Without Realizing It

Updated: Feb. 10, 2017

Unless your eyes start causing you pain, chances you pay them minimal attention. But when they’re irritated from eye strain—OUCH. Here’s why you’re straining your peepers (and how to make it stop).

iStock/Eva Katalin Kondoros

You read while lying down

When you’re at a funny angle, like you are when you lie down and prop a book up, your eyes have to work extra hard to track the words. Instead, make sure you’re in a well-lit room and sitting upright with your book on your lap. If eye pain persists while reading, the Vision Specialists of Michigan says there may be an underlying eye condition that should be checked out by our ophthalmologist. These are shocking diseases that eye doctors can detect first.


You read (A LOT) on your smartphone

These little pocket computers that help us keep in touch, direct us with GPS, and help us be more efficient at work are also really bad for our eyes. The smaller screen means smaller text, which causes our eyes to strain harder to see and interpret the words. According to a 2014 U.K. study of more than 2,000 people under 25 years old, 55 percent of participants said they felt their screen exposure affects their health, with eye discomfort being their main problem area. These are 5 times when paper is better than digital.


You drive at night

The combination of low light visibility, bright lights from oncoming traffic and needing to read (say, directions) while in motion is a dangerous one for eye strain. If you do a lot of traveling in the evening or nighttime, the muscles in your eyes have to work harder to adjust for the movement and changes in light levels causing them to strain and feel achy in the morning. Here are 11 scary driving scenarios and exactly how to handle them.


You use the computer for long hours

If at the end of the long day at the office you’re counting down the minutes until you can close your eyes and lie down your head because they both hurt, chances are you’re straining your eyes using your computer. Computer Vision Syndrome has been studied a lot over the past few years because the complaints of eye strain and pain have been rising as people spend long hours in front of a screen. The American Optometric Association says the strain comes not only from how long you’re staring at your computer, but the angle of your monitor and how often you take breaks play a big factor in how strained your eyes are. Here’s how to recover from sitting too much at work.


You don’t drink enough water

Our eyes love water and it’s a very important component of healthy eyes and eye muscles. When you’re not drinking enough water and you’re dehydrated, your eyes are affected greatly, the National Eye Institute warns, because they rely on the water intake to stay moisturized through tears. One of the first signs of severe dehydration is not being able to produce tears, which causes dry eye and eye muscle strain. Make sure you’re getting the recommended water intake and drink more when you’re exercising or it’s hot out. These tips can help you maintain healthy eyes and improve your vision.


You forget to wear sunglasses

Ask anyone and they’ll probably tell you a horror story of what happened when they forgot to apply sunscreen on a hot day (it’s happened to all of us). Well, what the sun does to your skin it also does to your eyes. The American Optometric Association advises always wearing sunglasses during the daylight hours because they protect your eyes from harmful UV rays—and they prevent you from squinting to see through the bright light, which is a killer workout for your eye muscles.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest