How Far Should Your Screen Be? Recommended Distances Explored

When it comes to designing your workspace or gaming station, the setup between you and your screen can be a critical factor for your comfort. Striking the perfect balance requires understanding a bit about ergonomics—the science of optimizing environments for human use. Let’s dive into the recommended screen distances that help reduce eye strain, improve posture, and maintain overall well-being.

How Far Should Your Screen Be? Recommended Distances Explored

The Computer Set-Up

Good ergonomics isn’t just about avoiding discomfort; it’s about promoting long-term wellness. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Viewing distance: The closer the object, the more your eyes have to use their focusing muscles to see things clearly. When we’re concentrating on our screens, we’re holding our muscles in the tensed position all day, which leads to fatigue. As a result, the general rule is the farther the object, the better…as long as you can read it. The recommended distance between your eyes and your screen is 20-30 inches (50-76 centimeters). This provides a balance between relaxing your focusing muscles as much as possible while preventing any eye strain or postural deviations that may occur when text or objects are too small.
  • Viewing angle: Viewing angle refers to the distance between eye level and the contents of your screen. One rule of thumb is to have the top of your screen positioned at or just below eye level.
  • Reflections and glare: Position the screen so that there is minimal reflection from windows or lights. Additionally, you want to minimize the variation in lighting across your screen, going for more uniform lighting. This can be achieved by centering your light source or using diffuse light.
  • Curved vs. Flat monitor: When it comes to visual search tasks, or the task of locating a particular object in a visual environment, one study showed that curved monitors are better when comparing visual search accuracy, speed, and fatigue. The study found that these data points were better in curved monitors between the sizes of 33 inches to 50 inches. It also found that increasing the size of a flat monitor was detrimental for visual search tasks.

How Far Should Your Screen Be? Recommended Distances Explored

What About My Phone?

One study showed that the average viewing distance of our smartphones varies on whether we’re sitting or lying down. In the sitting position, the viewing distance ranged from about 13-33 centimeters (5-12 inches) while in the lying down position, the viewing distance ranged from about 10-21 centimeters (that’s only 4-8 inches!).

Not only that, but the same study found that shorter viewing distances had a negative impact on our sleep. Keep this in mind as we are constantly on our devices, switching between computers and mobile devices. Try to keep your mobile devices at or near arm’s length.

How Far Should Your Screen Be? Recommended Distances Explored

The “You” Set-Up

While setting up your devices properly can make drastic improvements to your visual comfort and long term health, how you use the computer is also a key player.

  • Posture: Your posture should be relaxed yet supported. Your neck and torso should be vertically aligned with your feet flat on the floor.
  • 20-20-20 rule: To help prevent digital eye strain from prolonged computer use, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Frequent short breaks can minimize the strain on your eyes.

Testing different positions may be necessary to find the best fit for you. Remember that the right distance can reduce the risk of computer vision syndrome and maintain your eyes’ health.

How Far Should Your Screen Be? Recommended Distances Explored

Optimizing Your Viewing Experience

Once you’ve found the ideal distance for your screen, there are additional steps you can take to further optimize your viewing experience:

  • Get a vision exam: Consult your eye doctor about possible computer vision glasses and personalized advice for your screen habits. Computer vision glasses can be tailored for your own device setup so it is recommended to measure your current working distances prior to your exam.
  • Adjust screen settings: Tailor the brightness, contrast, and font size so that reading is comfortable for you. Accessibility settings available on your device can also help reduce the strain on your eyes.
  • Customize your lenses: Consider lens options such as anti-reflective coatings and blue light filters, especially if you spend long hours in front of a screen. These can help reduce glare, decrease strain, and moderate sleep patterns.

For those who experience significant screen time, it may be worthwhile to look into specialized computer glasses. At Zenni, we offer a variety of eyewear options to suit your visual needs, including blue light blocking glasses that help protect your eyes from the potential harmful effects of prolonged exposure to digital screens.

Remember, while screen distance is important, it’s just one part of a holistic approach to eye health and comfort. Explore different screen distances, listen to your body’s signals, and make adjustments as your needs change.

About the Author: Dr. Catherine Ong

Dr. Catherine Ong, OD, is an optometrist based in the Bay Area, California. She earned her doctorate from UC Berkeley, School of Optometry and currently provides primary and speciality eyecare in a private practice setting. She has a passion for patient education and enjoys reshaping technical concepts into digestable topics for all patients. When she is not seeing patients, you can find her exploring new restaurants, exercising, or trying out new recipes.