Screen fatigue – give your eyes a break

28 January 2021

As we approach a year of studying from home in one form or another, many of us have hit a wall and are suffering from varying degrees of screen fatigue. Read on to understand more about this and learn how to support yourself through it.

Man in dark illuminated by two computer screens in a dark room

Screen time feels almost unavoidable at this point. You wake up, look at phone, study, look at laptop, call friends, look at screen – it all adds up. And here’s the problem - it’s not super realistic to say you should halve your screen time when so much of our lives depend on that very screen. So this week we’re taking a look at some simple and effective strategies to combat screen fatigue.


Your eyes can get tired from looking at a screen for extended periods, so frequent breaks are a good antidote. The 20-20-20 rule is a good place to start: every 20 minutes, take a break of at least 20 seconds, and look at least 20 feet away (about 6 metres).

Sort out your lighting

You might be putting extra strain on your eyes by having too much, or too little light. Look around you – is enough natural light getting to your workspace. Is there too much glare on your screen? If not, is there anything you can do to maximise this? Can you position an extra light on your desk to ensure you’re getting enough, or change the angle at which you work?

Dim the screen

Now, let’s think about your computer screen. A screen that's too bright or too dark can lead to eye strain – so play around with it to find what’s best for you, and change it as the daylight disappears (or appears, if you're an earlybird). If you have to work late at night for whatever reason or you’re just scrolling on Instagram (we all do it), use the blue light filter. This is a feature many phones and laptops have to filter out blue light, which can make it harder for you to sleep and is - yep, you guessed it - related to eye strain.

Check your posture and position

Yes, you might be young, but back pain doesn’t discriminate. Make sure the position of your laptop and workspace is comfortable and encourages you to sit properly. In terms of your screen, try to make sure there isn’t too much reflection so that you don’t have to strain your eyes.

Look after your eyes

If you’re a seasoned glasses or contact lens wearer, you’ll probably know that having the wrong prescription can increase eye strain. Eye tests can still go ahead through the lockdown, so go get yourself checked out if you have any doubt. If you’re a part time glasses wearer, make sure you actually use them!

Take time away

Giving yourself breaks is important for your eyes and your wellbeing – and try to make sure that in your breaks, you limit your screen use, even though it can be really tempting to grab your phone and log onto social media for a quick scroll.

A book could be a good move. Some fiction that is unrelated to your course might be your best bet. There are also plenty of podcasts out there across many different topics. Whether it’s current affairs, activism, sport, politics, discussions, interviews or something else, a podcast can be a great tool to get your focus off screen. You could also listen to something new while you’re getting some exercise in your local park for some proper time out. Or, instead of doing a videocall, see if your loved one is keen for a voice call instead so you can give your eyes a rest.

If you like to use your hands, why not spend time cooking something? Not only will this take your mind off the screen, but you’ll also be able to get that important instant gratification from eating the creation you’ve just spent time making.

Make time to sleep – and not with your phone

Sleeping for 7-9 hours each night is essential. Try to put your phone away before you start winding down, and if you can, try to avoid looking at your phone as soon as you wake up. It’s a hard habit to break, but instead, you could pick up a book, listen to some calm music, a relaxation track or a podcast to help you wind down.

If you’re struggling, please reach out to UCL Student Support and Wellbeing. We’re here for you, in whatever way you need. Find out what services we offer and how to get in touch

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