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As we step further into the 21st century, technologies that shape our personal, occupational, and institutional landscapes play even bigger roles in our daily lives. However, this technological immersion has not come without consequences. Research from The Vision Council found that more than 60% of Americans report experiencing symptoms related to digital eye strain (DES), and the statistics are particularly dire for university students. A 2022 study notes a staggering 95% of university students experience at least one symptom ofDES during their computer-based study sessions. The study additionally identified specific groups more susceptible to DES-related symptoms, from lens wearers and those exposed to screens for 7 to 10 hours daily to students utilizing two or three electronic devices. 

Recognizing the significance of this issue, university students must become more proactive in taking care of their eyes in order to avoid future vision issues. Below, we explore how students can reduce the impact of digital eye strain in university and safeguard their overall well-being.

Understanding the vision challenges for university students

The surge in online classes has intensified the impact of DES, which is marked by a spectrum of symptoms that come with their own set of complications. For starters, dry eye syndrome affects six out of 10 adults — a statistic that holds true for university students as well. The stakes are raised when considering that a startling 20% of individuals with untreated dry eye eventually progress to severe dry eye disease. This progression not only jeopardizes night vision but can also impair critical activities such as driving and reading. To address these issues, eye experts stress that students must adopt healthier screen practices and a holistic approach to ocular well-being.

However, vision challenges extend beyond the digital realm. Overly bright lighting within college classrooms is a key factor contributing to discomfort glare, hindering students from completing visual tasks and leading to discomfort and visual fatigue. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced in classrooms with poor natural light. In contrast, classrooms boasting better natural light conditions prove to be conducive to enhanced learning efficiency, with an anticipated 21% increase during daytime activities. The benefits of natural light extend beyond better vision or academic performance — natural light has the power to elevate mood, reduce fatigue, improve sleep quality, and bolster overall productivity. 

Mitigating vision issues with four tips

As students navigate these challenges, a comprehensive approach encompassing both digital practices and environmental considerations is critical for preserving vision health. 

Optimize your glasses with an updated prescription

Contemporary eyewear technology recognizes the digital age challenges faced by university students, from taking virtual classes to reading school materials online. Modern prescription glasses transcend their conventional role of vision correction and now integrate cutting-edge innovations tailored to diverse lifestyles, as seen in Ray-Ban's offerings. One notable feature is the integration of blue-violet light filtering capabilities into lenses. This mechanism proves invaluable in reducing eye strain and potential disruptions to sleep patterns caused by excessive blue light. Students can fit their new lenses into the frames of their choice, whether it's stylish Aviators or the classic Clubmaster, to ensure a light and comfortable fit during extended wear. 

Give your eyes a break with eye drops

While eyewear may have become a protective necessity in the digital era, it's still crucial to actively rest and relax your eyes. To help enhance this process, you can use preservative-free lubricating eye drops during periods of prolonged screen time and intense focus, keeping your eyes refreshed and hydrated. However, remember to choose your eye drops wisely. The FDA has already flagged several over-the-counter eye drops from major brands, some of these carried by CVS Health or Rite Aid, that carry a potential risk of eye infections. To be safe, consult your healthcare provider for the best eye drops for your eyes and use only as recommended. 

Improve sleep quality with an eye mask

The importance of quality sleep for optimal academic performance cannot be overstated. Yet, students barely sleep 6½ hours a night, according to a 2022 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Additionally, the CDC notes that 26% of college students experience insomnia. To help boost sleep quality,  consider incorporating the simple yet effective practice of wearing an eye mask after a long day of studying.  By preventing light from reaching the retina during overnight sleep, this uncomplicated routine can significantly contribute to improving episodic encoding and alertness, or mental acuity and memory retention, the following day. 

Fuel your day with superfoods 

After a good night’s sleep, consider incorporating nutrient-packed superfoods into your breakfast to set a positive tone for the day ahead. Food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and also contribute to strengthening eye health. If you are one of the quarter of Americans skipping breakfast daily, consider throwing blueberries, pure cacao, and dark leafy greens in a breakfast smoothie when rushing in the morning. These antioxidant-rich superfoods will make for a delicious defense against cellular damage caused by free radicals throughout the body. By elevating your daily nourishment, you fuel both your body and vision for the challenges and triumphs in the rest of the day.

By adopting these practices, students can safeguard their vision and optimize their overall well-being in a demanding university environment. For more on healthy living, check out our other write-ups on Gym Buddy Now. 

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