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Ketaki Badhire
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How staring at screens affects your mental and physical health.

18 August 2021

If you are someone who spends most of the day time working on laptop, scrolling through your smartphone and stays up late watching videos or movies on your phone, tv or tablet only to wake up next morning and repeat the same, then it`s high time to consider the damage you are causing to your health.

Nowadays be it office, restaurant, mall, public transport or your home, you will find every single person staring at the screen. Be it laptop, smartphone, tablet, tv or any other gadget with a digital screen, the amount of screen time is on a rise like never before.

Since the covid pandemic, this situation only got worse, with online work from home, online schools, online shopping, courses etc. the amount of time people spent with digital gadgets just skyrocketed. And while there are many ongoing debates and concerns over how digital dependency has made people self-contained and reduced human interactions to a bare minimum, in this article I would like to draw your attention to the detrimental effects this excessive screen time causes on your mental and physical health.

Our evolutionary history tells us that humans have not evolved to stare at such bright light constantly like the ones emitted by our digital screens. The blue light having a wavelength of 400-450 nanometres emitted by all electronic devices is believed to be causing the most damage to your health. This blue light is not only harmful for your eyes but it can cause serious damage, when absorbed in excess amount by all cells of the body.

Some of the most common symptoms caused by excessive screen time are;

· Blurred vision

· Headaches

· Back pain, neck pain

· Sleep disorder

· Strained eyes

· Skin hyperpigmentation

· Premature near sightedness

· Anxiety

· Depression

· Restlessness

How too much screen time damages your eyes?

Blue light from the screens passes through the cornea, lens and reaches the retina hence causing serious damage to the retina. This light causes dryness of eyes, strain and can led to premature ageing of eyes. Constant exposure of retina to this light can cause macular degeneration (loss of vision). Wearing screen protective anti-glare glasses can help reduce the damage.

How excessive screen time affects your skin?

Excessive exposure of the skin to screen light can cause skin discoloration and hyperpigmentation. Studies have shown that the blue light from our screens can penetrate skin deeper compared to the uv rays. Constantly touching screens, keyboards in turn transfer the dirt and bacteria onto your face through your fingers, causing acne breakouts.

What does too much screen time do to your brain?

Multiple research studies suggests that addiction of electronic devices causes shrinkage in the Gray matter areas of the brain. Research also demonstrates loss of integrity of the brain`s white matter. Studies suggest that addiction to electronic devices in young adults can trigger more addictions.

How screen time disrupts your sleep pattern?

The human sleep-wake cycle follows a circadian rhythm that is governed by sunlight, when its bright outside our mind is alert and as it gets dark outside our body produces a hormone called melatonin, which causes sleepiness. But the blue light emitted by our digital screens mimics the sunlight deceiving our body into thinking its daytime, which makes the mind alert disturbing our natural sleep cycle.

What are the effects of too much screen time on your mental health?

While those cute cat videos may make you smile and those funny memes and videos may give a good laugh, but actually spending several hours in front of the screen can worsen your mood. Researchers believe that constantly consuming content online can actually make a person feel lonely and depressed. Spending several hours in front of computers and smartphones can not only affects your mental health but also affects your personal life and relationships to a great extent.

Tips to keep a check on your screen timing.

1. Track your screen time and set limits.

2. Keep your phone out of bedroom. Set a cut-off time for digital devices usage at night post dinner.

3. Establish tech-free zones in offices especially in canteens.

4. Leave your phone behind. Don`t bring your smartphone on the dinner table.

5. Delete all unnecessary apps, keep only those of importance.

6. Limit your online window shopping, only visit the website if you really need to buy something.

7. Switch to greyscale on your devices. All devices have the option of changing the display setting to grey scale which is less harmful.

8. Wear anti-glare glasses while using computer and laptop.

 

Today we live in a digital world, therefore completely avoiding digital screens is next to impossible, but what is possible is limiting those extra hours of pointless staring at the screens. Afterall spending quality time with your family and loved ones is way better than losing precious time in virtual space.