Susannah Taylor: How to beat screen fatigue

We don’t need a bunch of statistics to tell us that screen time has gone through the roof this year. I have two children who are each doing eight hours of online schooling a day and catching up with friends online in the evening (how else can they see them?). As for me, when I’m not hollering for them to get off their screens, I’m ironically in front of one myself writing columns, editing, Zooming, Instagramming or looking for brass doorknobs on the internet.

‘Since wearing blue-light-blocking glasses my eyes feel less sore,’ says Susannah.

But what is all this screen time doing to us? While research is ongoing (and we are the guinea pigs), most experts agree that blue light is affecting our body clocks. Blue light is everywhere because it’s present in sunlight. It keeps our circadian rhythms in check, and is strongest in the mornings (which is a signal for us to get up) and weaker in the evenings (which makes us unwind).

Our screens also emit blue light – of a shorter but stronger wavelength. The problem comes when they’re glaring at 8pm or later, signalling us to stay awake, which can cause sleep and anxiety issues, as well as eye strain, headaches and fatigue.

One obvious answer is to get off our screens, but when, like me, your work depends on a computer, that’s not an option (I’d love to see my editor’s face when I say I’m filing copy by fountain pen). Another is to use the blue-light-blocking devices now on the market.

One brand I would recommend is Ocushield, created by optometrist Dhruvin Patel, which makes medically rated blue-light- blocking glasses and, for those who need to wear regular glasses, screens for phones, iPads and computers. What really sets Ocushield products apart is that they are approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the UK and the Food and Drugs Administration in the US.

Dhruvin came up with the idea for Ocushield when he was studying. On discovering that blue light affects sleep he tried to find something that could protect his eyes, but could only find orange coatings for your computer screen.

So how do the Ocushield glasses work? Dhruvin explains that there’s a yellow pigment in the lenses (that can’t be seen by the human eye) which absorbs the light coming through. ‘There is also a coating that reflects harsh blue light,’ he says, ‘making sure that the only light to reach the eye is safe, non-harmful blue light.’ While I was sceptical at first, I think they do work. I’ve been wearing Ocushield’s Anti-Blue Light Glasses (£59.99, ocushield.com) for almost two weeks – I have the Carson style in Tortoiseshell. I’ve also added an Ocushield Anti-Blue Light Screen Protector (£39.99) to my phone.

If, like me, you don’t normally wear glasses, they take a bit of getting used to, but they have definitely made my eyes less sore at the end of the day and I feel less fatigued after a stint at my computer. My daughter also thinks they have relieved her headaches. And while I can’t vouch for their sleep-inducing effects (I’m one of those annoying people who could sleep on a washing line), many friends believe they are a game-changer.

While the jury’s still out from the medics on whether blue-light- blocking glasses properly work, I feel there’s more evidence to come.

Eat well to age better

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An older member of my family got very sick recently because he wasn’t eating the right foods. Nutritional therapist Nicola Moore has some tips to prevent this…

  • Protein power Elderly people have a higher need for protein – which impacts everything from how we function emotionally to our immune system. Meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy and legumes are all good sources and adding protein to soup is a useful strategy.
  • Small bites, big impact Increasing egg intake, perhaps making them a daily meal for breakfast, could be useful. Another tip is adding more nuts into the diet – such as walnuts – which are good for the immune system.
  • Calories count Adding calories into meals such as soups can be really important – a tin of coconut milk will add beneficial short-chain fatty acids which are good for the gut, providing energy and helping you feel full and satisfied.
  • Water works Dehydration is a big problem in older people and increasing water intake can reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to improve cognition and energy levels, too.
  • Eat the rainbow – plenty of fresh fruit and veg in a range of colours, especially dark purple, red, green and orange.
  • Nicola’s podcast, Healthily, is on iTunes and Spotify