How to Prevent Eye Strain While Watching TV

More and more people are looking for tips on how to prevent eye strain when watching TV, using a computer, or reading.

Recent studies reveal that on any given day the average Canadian adult watches approximately 4 hours and 20 minutes of television. That adds up to nearly 30 hours of TV viewing per week!

We’ve all indulged in Netflix marathons or watched entire seasons of our favourite TV show. But we don’t just stop there.

Studies on Canadian TV viewing habits indicate that more and more we are also using our phones, tablets and even our laptop computers at the same time, which can put even more strain on our eyes.

Watching too much TV affects our eyesight resulting in TV eye strain because we are focusing on a small, bright object in a dark room. The dark room causes your irises to open wider to let in more light. Yet the irises do not close as much as they should to focus on the bright TV screen.

Watching a lot of TV not only causes TV eye strain but also may cause, fatigue, sharp pain, headaches, and overall tiredness of the eyes.

In the future, before you sit down to binge on Netflix or catch up on the shows you’ve recorded, keep these tips in mind for protecting your eyes and prevent eye strain while watching TV:

  • Sit approximately 8 to 10 feet from the TV screen. The general rule of thumb is to be at least 5 times the distance from the screen as the screen is wide.
  • Adjust or move the TV (or close your blinds) to avoid glare and reflections from the TV screen.
  • Keep the TV at eye level or lower to prevent your vertical eye muscles from getting too tired. You may need to rethink about mounting your TV over your fireplace!
  • Make sure the room has soft lighting. Watching TV in the dark can make your eyes tired.
  • Give your eyes a break – get up and walk around and give your eyes some screen-free time. This also prevents your body from getting sore and back problems from developing.
  • Take advantage of commercial breaks by focusing your eyes on objects that are far away. Use the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes of TV look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you feel you are farsighted that could be contributing to your eye strain as well. See our post on Farsighted FAQs.

Other things you can do to help alleviate the ill effects of TV and prevent eye strain:

  • If you feel TV eye strain coming on try to gently massage the eye or apply a hot cloth.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep a night to let your eyes rest and recuperate after watching TV.
  • Upgrade to a flat screen TV that gives off less glare. Choosing to go bigger at the same can also be beneficial because your eyes don’t have to strain as much to focus.
  • Adjust the overall light output of the TV by adjusting the backlight control. This can make the TV far easier to watch, especially at night.
  • Consider buying a bias light. The neutral grey light goes behind the TV and increases the average light in the room without affecting the color accuracy of the TV.
  • Remember to blink! The average person blinks every 5 seconds. When watching TV or sitting at your computer this can drop to as low as every 12 seconds. Remembering to blink will prevent your eyes from becoming dry while watching TV.
  • Ask your Eye Doctor about simple eye exercises to help strengthen the muscles in your eyes.

Remember also, that watching a movie or TV show on your tablet, phone, or laptop can cause computer eye strain because you are focusing on a much smaller screen that is typically closer to your eyes. Just because you aren’t in front of a TV doesn’t mean you can’t apply the above eye strain tips to your other viewing behaviour!

We also have a post that outlines other Eye Health Care Tips.


If you experience ongoing TV eye strain or general eyesight discomfort from watching TV or using your mobile phone, or even computer eye strain while working at the computer, contact our experienced optometrists in Unionville, Ontario.

Regardless of how your eyes may feel the Canadian Association of Optometrists recommend that children should have their first eye exam before the age of 5 and an eye examination each year following. Adults should have an eye exam every 2 to 3 years depending on their age and eye health history.

Call our Unionville Optometry office at 1-905-477-4488 if you would like to learn more on how to prevent eye strain or wish to make an appointment today.

Dr. David Innamorato, Dr. Krista Innamorato, or Dr. Mark Innamorato will conduct a thorough eye examination to check not only your vision, but also the overall health of your eyes.

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