Digital devices are so common in our lives that we may fail to notice the effect they have on our health.
For those of us with indoor office jobs, the computer is essential for us to carry out our daily tasks and responsibilities, so it’s inevitable that we would be found in front of a screen all day. In fact, Malaysians spend 12 - 14 hours daily on their mobile phones or their computers. That’s half the day spent staring a lit screen, which, as we’ve all been told since we were children, is bad for your eyes. But just how bad is it and does it affect more than our eyesight? Here are some side effects of screen time that you should be aware of, and what you should do to combat them:
Staring at a lit screen can cause eye strain
We all know staring at a brightly-lit screen for hours on end is bad for our eyes. However, when we are busy trying to complete our tasks, this is usually the furthest thing from our mind, until we feel the irritation and discomfort around our eyes. Just like our body, our eyes need a break from prolonged strain, and they also need to “work out”. Nonstop staring at the screen causes us to blink less, which is the culprit behind that dry, painful feeling that we get in our eyes.
What you should do: Give your eyes a break
One way to be kinder to your eyes is to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Experts say that every 20 minutes you spend looking at a digital device, you should take a 20-second break to focus on something that is 20 feet away from you. This will give your eyes a chance to get that much deserved rest and relax your eye muscles. For contact lens wearers and those who spend all day in dry air environment, you can combat the dry feeling with the help of eye drops.
Physical discomfort may make an appearance
When the day draws to an end, do you notice aches in your neck, shoulder or lower back, or soreness and cramping your fingers, wrist and forearm? Perhaps the numbness in your wrist begin bothering you so much that you had to visit a doctor, only to be diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. All these are the result of sitting too long at your desk, typing away or staring down at your mobile phone, texting and scrolling. The “text neck epidemic” puts so much stress on your spine that it could lead to early spine degeneration or the need for surgery at a younger age.
What you should do: Get the right ergonomic fit
If you’re spending long periods sitting in front of the computer screen, adjusting your work station can help keep the body aches at bay. An effective ergonomic fit has been proven to improve the health and wellbeing of a person, while also improving productivity. These are some of the things you can do:
- Ensure that your seat height is at the right level so your feet are flat on the ground, with your knees at the same level or slightly higher than your hips.
- Ensure the back of your chair is adjusted to a 100°-110° reclined angle.
- While seated, provide adequate support for your upper and lower back with the help of cushions.
Your sleep gets disrupted
We may think, “Oh, 15 minutes of browsing on my phone before bed can’t hurt!” but if we’re completely honest, more often than not, those 15 minutes sometimes turn into an hour (or more). Have you also noticed how it’s significantly harder to fall asleep after staring at a screen at night? Research has found that the blue light emitting from digital devices actually affects your sleeping patterns negatively, as these emissions boost attention while suppressing the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. This is beneficial when you need to be awake and alert during the day, but not during bedtime.
What you should do: Start practicing new bedtime habits
Cutting down on your gadget use before bed can improve your sleeping pattern. Just make sure that you avoid your digital devices at least 30 minutes before you head off to bed. If you can turn your bedroom into a gadget-free zone, it would be even more useful at helping you avoid temptation. However, if you’re finding it hard to break the habit of going on your phone before bedtime, you can also try installing apps that filter and block blue light emissions, thus helping to reduce the strain on your eyes.
Sitting all day is unhealthy for you
Your behaviour in front of a screen, regardless of whether you’re sitting or lying down, can also be detrimental to your health. The physical inactivity that usually accompanies watching television or indoor office jobs has been linked to increased risk of weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. In fact, medical journals and health officials have ranked the dangers of physical inactivity to our health on par with the dangers of smoking or obesity.
What you should do: Take standing breaks
Recent studies have found that those who stand up more have lower levels of blood sugar and cholesterol – who knew just standing could be so good for you? Start looking for places in your office where you can do your work standing up, or, instead of shooting a text to your colleague when you have a question, walk over to where they are to ask them what you need to know. This will not only give your eyes respite from the glare of the screen, it’ll get you active and moving about.
Staring at brightly lit devices for long periods of time is unavoidable in the age of technology, but we can make conscious choices to improve our digital use. Taking the first step to implementing these habits is not difficult and in the long run, your health will thank you for it!
The above articles are intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss, which may arise from reliance on information contained in the articles.