Relaxing your eyes the 20-20-20 way

I have been having some problems with my eyes of late. It started off with a 2-wheeler ride where I was met with a huge dust storm and quite a bit of the dust got into my right eye. That led to some itchiness, redness and a few eye drops later, it seemed to be fine.

That proved to be a coincidence of sorts. The next day, the other (left) eye seemed to play the same trick. Out came the eye drops again and things got better. Then I got some sort of a pain along my left temple, a bit of heaviness in the eyes and found that I had some trouble  focusing.

I was mentally prepared that something had probably gone wrong with my eyes after 40 years and subjecting them for a good 25 years to vast amounts of glaring at the computer screen and generally abusing them in any which way I could. They were telling me that they could not take it any longer. I could sense that.

I got an appointment with a wonderful Eye Specialist, Dr. Navalkar, who runs Gulmohur Eye Clinic, a speciality Eye Hospital in Kandivali, Mumbai. I did not want to go to the fly by night Eye Opticians, whose only aim in life is to ensure that you have spectacles on yourself (I will leave that story for another day). Dr. Navalkar subjected me to some tests and the results showed that nothing was wrong with my eyes and most likely reason was straining them a lot too late. He did mention a few things, which when I objectively look at — I was guilty of them:

  • Subjecting my eyes to almost 12+ hours of the computer screen on several days.
  • Reading in moving vehicles. Heck – I was even typing my way in moving vehicles on the fantastic pothole ridden roads of Mumbai.
  • Not taking breaks at times. I do take breaks (honestly) but there is no regular pattern (and I do not collect data like Google to measure that!)
  • I have noticed that I do not blink my eyes a lot. Dr. Navalkar said that the average blink rate is about once every 12 seconds but when you get too engrossed in a computer screen, chances are that I do that only once every 2 minutes. Whoa ! I think he is right. At times, I did notice that I had not blinked for long and when I did blink, it would feel rough and hurt a bit. He told me that I must put less strain on my eyes and to follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your computer and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Allright then — what should be done about this? While I do have some eye drops to use for 2 weeks to help lubricate them a bit, in the long term I will have to do some sensible things that I well within my control. They include:

  • Stop reading in the bus or any other moving vehicle. Anyways, I end up reading stuff that eventually does not matter much to anyone. So what the hell. Maybe substitute them with some podcasts. I will need to make sure that I don’t end up damaging my ears instead. 😉
  • Learn to blink more. Now how do does a 40-year old Engineer try to make himself to blink more. One gentleman put a string of Yellow Post It Notes on his screen to remind him of that. Nah ! I can’t do that to my screen.

Allright then … tackle it via some Android chops. Ladies and Gentlemen – now there is an App for that.  

So I spend about 30 minutes and some excessive blinking later, I had an Android app that barely works but does its work.

The App is called RelaxEyes 20-20-20. And it is based on the 20-20-20 rule : Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your computer, close your eyes for 20 seconds and/or look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

The App is available on the Google Play Store. I will look at other App Stores but not for now – unless I want to strain my eyes more. The App is definitely rudimentary and I do not want to put in any complicated features or custom screens/sounds. Its job is supposed to remind you and that is all it will do.

The App is simple enough and comes up with the following full screen:


Tap on it anywhere, and you will get 2 buttons at the bottom. Click on Start to begin the 20 minute cycle. At each conclusion of the 20-minute cycle, it will beep. That is enough for you to start closing your eyes, thinking of a sunny island miles away and focus on the coconut tree in the distance.

*Keep in mind that if you close this app or push it in the background, it ain’t going to keep reminding you. That is by design. You just need to start the app and click the Start button again and keep it running in the foreground.

In case you want to stop the reminders, click on the Stop button.


The Beep is a standard beep sound. There is no provision to link to your mp3 sounds on the device. I just want you to be reminded in a simple way and not start doing the Bhangra at the end of 20 minutes (though that would not be a bad option as a break).

Go ahead and use the App if you want. Remember it runs on Android 2.2 and above.

Let your eyes relax, you need them. Thank you to Dr. Navalkar for the checkup and tips. I am sure that if you happen to read this blog, you are going to tell me “Hey ! Didn’t I tell you to relax your eyes and stay away from your screen for a while?”. I will …

Moral of the Story : Its not about the App, its about your eyes. Take care of them.


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