Tips for reducing eye strain

Reading, monitors and eye care

Our move to online consumption of academic material comes with many pros and cons. Recently, I’ve been contacted about how to deal with eye strain and headaches which seem to be related to online reading. What follows are a couple of quick tips that may help:

  • increase your screen’s refresh rate – make it as high as you can.
  • adjust the brightness and contrast levels
  • if reading on the web, take advantage of “reader mode” – Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Apple Safari all include a reader mode. Chrome has an extension you can install
  • increase your font size
  • lower your monitor’s color “temperature” so there is less blue light.
  • take frequent breaks (the common recommendation is 10 minutes every hour) and rest your eyes
    • briskly rub your palms together until they are slightly warm, cup your palms and gently center them over your eyes with your fingers resting above your forehead. Hold this for 10-20 seconds
  • periodically gaze to a point in the distance (at least 20 feet away) and maintain that gaze for about 20 seconds
  • minimize glare
  • blink, often
  • try using yellow-tinted/blue light blocking glasses
  • consider getting an eye exam and ask your doctor about computer glasses


When attending live group video sessions turn off your video, close your eyes, and listen. Do this every 15 minutes or so. If you are watching a recording, watch in 15-minute increments when you can, pause, rest your eyes, or practice distance gazing for a few seconds.

Listen more

Explore tools that will allow you to listen to material instead of reading it. Most operating systems have built-in accessibility tools that can be used by anyone. Windows has Narrator, Macs have VoiceOver. On Windows machines, you can also use NVDA a free powerful screen reader with a relatively learning threshold. Other tools and apps such as VoiceDream, Natural Reader. Finally, take advantage of Read Write a powerful learning companion. It can scan documents, read them out loud, and convert them to mp3 files for later listening. It is freely available to everyone at Swarthmore.

Resources and references

If there are other resources you’d like to suggest, please forward them to