Every day we have our eyes glued to screens. Phones, computers, TVs, game systems, e-readers … There's a whole ecosystem of personal electronics that we use for work and leisure. For most of us, using screens is an inescapable and necessary part of our lives. Using them for too long, though, can cause health issues. If you find yourself spending a large part of your day planted in front of a screen, keep these tips in mind to help you safeguard your health when you’re on screen time.
Improve Quality Of Sleep
Do you like to browse on your phone in bed before going to sleep? You may be setting yourself up for a night of poor rest. Research has found that the blue light generated by fluorescent and LED lights — which laptops, cell phones, and portable game systems also emit — can have a negative influence on your body’s ability to produce melatonin. Blue light delays or reduces the production of melatonin in the evening, which increases your sleep latency (the amount of time you need to fall asleep).
For best results, you should stop using handheld electronic devices at least 30-60 minutes before you go to bed. If you need to use screens right before sleep, you can reduce the negative effects a little bit by dimming the light on your screens and/or setting it to night mode.
Go Easy On Your Eyes
The blue light of screens can also cause eye problems, which include retina damage in more extreme cases. A common problem that comes with too much screen time is developing a form of Computer Vision Syndrome. Computer Vision Syndrome is an umbrella term for several different complications that can result from working too long on screens. These problems can range from dry eyes (caused by a lack of blinking from staring at screens) to eyestrain (which is usually caused by blue light and/or the bright glare coming off the screen).
Luckily, there are several relatively simple fixes that can help alleviate these problems. Eye drops can help keep your eyes lubricated and ward the blurred vision and pain that dry eyes can cause. Blue blocker glasses can help on the strain front by filtering out the blue light. Taking regular breaks will help as well; even something as simple as remembering to look away from your screen can give your eyes time to rest. Remember the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away from the screen for at least 20 seconds.
Get Up And Get Away
A big health problem associated with mobile devices and computers is that it can foster a sedentary lifestyle. If you don’t get enough physical activity during the day, you burn fewer calories, you risk losing muscle strength and endurance, your bones could lose mineral content, and you may develop problems with your immune system, blood circulation, metabolism, and hormonal balance. Left unchecked these problems can compound into life-threatening conditions that include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Cancer (primarily colon, breast, and uterine)
Like taking breaks for the sake of your eyes, stepping away from the computer every hour for a short break is a good practice to adopt. Stepping away for 5-10 minutes every hour gives your body a chance to reset itself and burn off pent-up energy. Doing some stretches before and after a long computer session can also keep your muscles limber. Even taking a short walk around the house or office can do wonders for your health in the long run by burning off calories and keeping your blood flowing.
Pay Attention To Your Posture
Screens can wreak havoc on our spine by encouraging bad posture: always craning our necks downward to stare at our phones or hunching over like Quasimoto to work on a laptop. Ergonomic chairs can help with this, as can using a raised platform to set your screens on so you don’t have to look down or bend to use them comfortably. But the key to good posture is being aware of it. Make a habit of checking in on yourself throughout the day to see if you’re properly aligned.
A good trick is to imagine a string poking out of the top of your head like the wick on a candle and picture that string slowly getting pulled up taut like someone is trying to lift you. This visualization exercise is part of the Alexander Technique, a system for improving wellness through posture exercises and muscle relaxation.
Article by Austin Brietta