The recent COVID-19 crisis has sent millions of America’s workforce home to work remotely from a computer screen. Across America, daily average screen time has increased dramatically in 2020.
Add another item to the list of things COVID-19 has messed with: migraines. For Americans suffering from migraine, excessive screen time can significantly contribute to the frequency of migraine attacks.
Computer screens have become the only portal into work. Former in-person meetings have become video conferences, and even texts and phone calls are being replaced by video calls to help keep business relationships alive. Migraines can worsen with excessive screen time. Accordingly, migraines are also on the rise.
Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world. New research shows that increased screen time results in more frequent and severe migraine attacks, threatening employment.
If you haven’t had a migraine, you don’t know how disabling they are, not just because of the severity but because of the associated symptoms.
Nearly 90% of migraine sufferers are sensitive to light, which includes light emitted from computer, TV, or phone screens–so unfortunately data showing a significant increase in migraine attacks is not surprising. Workers and their families need to be aware of the growing health risks associated with more screen time.
Axon Optics, a company that sells therapeutic eyewear to help combat migraines, recently commissioned an independent study of 500 US workers to better understand how remote work has affected the millions of American workers with migraine.
You can see all the study findings here, but below I summarize a couple of key takeaways:
Working from Home Means More Migraines
Migraineurs reported that the increase in home-based work has also increased their frequency of migraines. Most respondents reported that they’re getting migraines up to 50% more often due to working from home.
Remote Workers with Migraine Want to Return to the Office
While most workers overall report wanting to keep work-from-home even after the COVID-19 pandemic, migraineurs, in contrast, are looking forward to going back to the office because it means more face-to-face interactions. Over 60% of people with migraine want to return to work because it means less screen time than working from home. However, if there is a perk for working at home for migraineurs, it’s being able to control the lighting.
Frequent Migraines Threatens Employment
Migraines affect production and focus and can make job stability really difficult due to taking frequent breaks or sick days. 24% of people with migraine say they have lost a job because they couldn’t perform their duties due to headaches.
If This Is You, These 3 Simple Tips Could Make a World of Difference
Migraine pain doesn’t have to make work harder than it needs to be. Here are 3 tips for migraineurs on how to be productive:
1.Control your environment
The survey found that 68% of people with migraine like being able to control their lighting while working at home. If your work is something you’re able to do remotely, see if you can work from home if you’re not already. Once in-person meetings resume, check with your boss if there’s an option for you to continue working from home so you can control the lighting in your environment and avoid your biggest triggers, like fluorescent lights.
2. Take breaks
Breaks are healthy for anyone, but taking breaks from screen time for migraineurs can make a huge difference. Get up and stretch–posture can be especially important to people with migraine as tension in the body, like the back and neck, can be a trigger. Go outside, go for a walk, stand up to get a glass of water, or my personal favorite, dance to your favorite song on full volume for a few minutes.
3. Set deadlines for yourself
You’d be amazed at how much you can get done if you set a timer and work for even a short period of time without stopping, like 20 minutes. Try making deadlines for yourself and see if you’re more productive with a little added pressure. Have an accountability partner to keep you in check–sometimes when I’m dreading something, I’ll text a friend and we’ll agree to both do something we’ve been putting off for a half-hour and then text each other after to see if we did it. If you completed your task or did it for the agreed time, reward yourself with a snack or a break.
Though these tips are simple, sometimes changing a few little things can make a huge difference in the long run. Migraine pain doesn’t have to make work harder than it needs to be. Solutions like controlling your work environment, taking breaks, and setting deadlines can help mitigate the effects of migraine pain. Try one this week and see if it helps you be more productive!
About the author: Dr. Bradley Katz, MD, PhD, is a neuro-ophthalmologist and professor at the University of Utah Medical Center and founder of Axon Optics. Dr. Katz’s research expertise includes light sensitivity (“photophobia”) and neurologic conditions associated with light sensitivity, such as migraine and blepharospasm. He’s been featured in Parents, Prevention, Migraine Again, and Elite Daily.