Avoiding screens: can it boost vision?

Squinty Jamie

Can less screen time and more long-distance staring repair your vision?

For the past few years, I’ve discovered that my vision has been slowly going downhill. I’m becoming farsighted to the point where I need glasses to read most books and stuff on my iPhone, and sometimes even just to work on my computer at my job.

I’ve been attributing this to a career in IT and the constant screen time I undergo regularly. But last weekend I had an experience that makes me think twice about this.

We drove from Columbus to Milwaukee to visit some of my wife’s family out there. Obviously, this meant around eight hours in the car with not much to do other than read and stare out the window. The Ohio and Indiana landscapes for that drive are not particularly stimulating, and you could see for miles off in all directions most of the time.  (Sorry, if you dig farmland, but I’m a forest guy).

When we got to my father-in-law’s house, our iPhone and screen usage was at a minimum because he doesn’t have wi-fi and we didn’t watch much TV. We chatted a lot, did some stuff out of the house (like attending a little fair and going to the Lake Michigan beach), and basically unwittingly gave our eyes a rest.

So between the drive and the lack of wi-fi, I wasn’t doing much of the same stuff as I usually do as a social media fan and IT professional.

On the way home on Monday morning, I pulled out a book to read while my wife was driving. And suddenly, as I started to read, I realized that I hadn’t gotten my glasses out of my pocket to do so. I was reading au naturel, so to speak.

Somehow the break of given my eyes of not using my phone as much and not staring at a screen had helped me recover. It wasn’t perfectly returned, but it was significantly improved, for sure!

In thinking about the experience I nailed it down to these things, which I’ve hinted at above.

1. Lack of iPhone time.

2. Lack of screens close to my face – computer, tablets, etc.

3. Greatly increased long-distance “staring”

Now, it’s totally anecdotal, but it seems that I can trace my problems back to when I got my first iPhone. It would not surprise me in the least to discover that the use of my iPhone has caused my near-vision to deteriorate as I fatigue my eyes.

And that would also lead me to understand why the recent trip – with comparably less screen time and an increase in “staring out the window” that the drudgery of the car trip entailed – would have helped my vision.  You frequently hear pundits in the vision space talk about giving your eyes a rest by staring out the window  or at least looking around and away from your screen every few minutes as a way to rest your eyes.

And…when I got back, and returned to the land of screens, wi-fi, and office work, my problems returned.  I’m wearing my glasses now, in fact.

So I’m curious – how many of you have had similar experiences?  Comment below – and share this around to friends, please!