Today’s lifestyle requires many of us to be glued to a gadget screen for many hours every day. But a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) eye health researcher and optometrist has advised taking a break from modern technology and heading outdoors as one of the best ways to maintain eye health. Brisbane, Australia-based Associate Professor Scott Read puts spending more time in natural light – and less time in front of a screen – as one of his top five everyday tips for keeping your eyes healthy.
“There’s two known benefits to being outside in today’s world – it gives your eyes a chance to focus on things further away and have a rest from close-up work, and it also exposes our eyes to brighter outdoor light which appears to reduce our risks of developing short-sightedness,” explains Professor Read. The director of research at QUT’s School of Optometry and Vision Science led a study into children’s light exposure and eye growth last year which showed a link between increased exposure to outdoor light and preventing or reducing short-sightedness, also known as myopia, in kids.
The results showed that less than 60 minutes outdoor light exposure per day is a risk factor for myopia, with Professor Read recommending that ideally, children spend at least two hours a day outside to help prevent myopia from developing and progressing. However, it is not yet known why outdoor light has this beneficial affect on eyesight. Professor Read will now focus his next studies on trying to find out more, including developing new methods and tools to ‘see’ more of the back of the eye and how light affects it – an area researchers still know very little about.
“At the moment, standard imaging methods allow us to see about 3% of the back of the eye so we are developing ways to widen this area of imaging and see more of the eye so that we can better track how it changes with light exposure over time,” he said. As well as heading outdoors, here are five more top tips from Professor Read for good eye health:
1. Take regular breaks from close work and screen time – try shifting your focus and looking at something in the distance every 20 minutes or so when doing close work.
2. Don’t smoke – it increases the risks of cataracts, macular degeneration and damage to your optic nerve. And maintain a healthy weight to lessen your chance of diabetes, which can cause eye problems.
3. Know your family’s eye health history and get regular check-ups (adults and kids), especially if there are hereditary eye conditions.
4. Get plenty of sleep – a bad night’s sleep contributes to eye fatigue.
5. Eating dark leafy greens and egg yolks is good for your eyes – they contain lutein and zeaxanthin which are important nutrients for eye health.