These days, we spend more and more time looking at screens. For many of us, screens are the way we work. But screens are also the way we play. From working on a computer, watching TV to video games and social media, people may spend several more hours in front of a screen. A recent Ad Age study found that people spent more than 9.5 and hours per day using screen-based media. Although that may seem low for some of us that work in front of a computer all day, it’s important to remember that about 10% of adults in the US still don’t use the Internet, so they drag the average down. Factoring them out, the rest of us may spend upwards of 11 hours in front of a screen.

With this amount of screen time, it’s no wonder that people may experience screen-related headache symptoms. Especially right now with most people working from home, or staying occupied from home with nothing to do but browse the internet and watch TV.

young woman sitting in front of her laptop screen, closing her eyes due to a headache

A Headache From Screen Time is Not Universal

The science is mixed on whether time spent in front of screens can cause headaches. Most studies have been done on teens. One study of Nordic teens found a strong correlation between screen time and headaches. However, another study found headaches correlated with listening to music only.

Few studies explore the exact causal mechanism of screen-related headaches, though some research indicates screen flicker rate may be to blame.

How to Tell If You Have a Headache From Screen Time

If you suspect your headaches might be caused by screen overuse, look for these signs:

  • Headache occurs after you’ve been working on the screen for prolonged periods
  • You experience blurred vision
  • Headache and blurred vision go away after days away from the computer
  • If this is the case, you should try these tips to improve your headaches:
  • Cut down on time working or playing in front of the screen
  • Take regular breaks
  • Get natural light exposure during the day
  • Try focusing on very close objects, such as your thumb held a few inches from your face, and far objects, those at least 20 feet away to exercise your eyes

These should help if your headaches are screen related.

Is it Blue Light Exposure?

Another common reason people experience headaches from looking at a screen all day is from blue light exposure. Blue light leads to discomfort in the eye which can trigger or worsen migraines and headaches. If you believe this is the cause, turn on the blue light filter on your computer, phone, tablet, or any other type of screen you’re looking at. In windows devices, the setting is known as “night light” and on Apple devices, it’s called “night shift.” These settings provide you with the same filter as blue light glasses, only you don’t have to purchase glasses or wear them. Try using these settings for a week to see if your headaches and migraines improve.

Is It Your Posture?

Another possible link between screen time and headaches is that your posture may be to blame. Poor posture can lead to tension in your back and neck that can then lead to tension in your head. This results in tension headaches.

Try to correct your posture when working. And remember that TMJ can make tension headaches worse. Consider alternate treatment options if your screen-related headaches don’t improve with eye exercises and breaks.

Other Causes of Frequent Headaches

If you discover that it’s not the screen, blue light, or posture causing your frequent headaches, something else may be going on. We’ve heard of everything from video game headaches and texting neck headaches to certain sleeping positions causing headaches. In the end, we find that most patients who suffer from frequent migraines or headaches have TMJ. With a proper TMJ diagnosis and treatment plan, we can help you prevent headaches altogether. A headache from screen time seems like the easiest blame of pain, but it’s usually not the ultimate cause.

To learn more about TMJ treatment for tension headaches, please contact Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC today.