You probably spend time on your smartphone every day, but do you know the potential impact that screen time can have on your health? Here are five health hazards associated with smartphones, plus tips and strategies for nixing those hazards for a healthier lifestyle.
You already know how important quality sleep is. Unfortunately, staring at a smartphone screen can have a negative effect on how well you sleep and how alert you are the next day.
Screens smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices emit blue light. This type of light reduces the amount of melatonin in our brains, which makes it harder to fall asleep.
The fix is simple — put your phone and other electronics away at least one hour before bedtime. If you must use your phone, install an app like F.lux®, or use your phone’s red light filter if that feature is available.
This phrase was recently coined by scientists who learned about a new phenomenon amongst select smartphone users — temporary blindness in one eye. It can happen when you look at your phone in the dark using only one eye, like you might when lying in bed with one eye blocked by a pillow.
Thankfully, the condition is temporary, but it demonstrates another good reason for avoiding smartphone use late at night.
It’s possible to become addicted to your smartphone, and it’s a health hazard that deserves more discussion. “No-mobile-phone-phobia” is a new field of research that focuses on:
“(1) The feelings of anxiety or distress that some people experience when not having their phone ... (2) the degree to which we depend on phones to complete basic tasks and to fulfill important needs such as learning, safety and staying connected to information and to others.”
If you can relate to these feelings try focusing on creating new habits. You may even want to designate days or times where you mindfully put your phone away. “Screenless Saturday” has a nice ring to it!
Lee Schelonka, MD, is a Kaiser Permanente ophthalmologist in Lone Tree, Colorado, and he’s seen a big increase in cases of dry eyes as smartphone usage rises. According to Dr. Schelonka, “I see people every day with concerns of dry eyes and in Colorado’s dry climate, that’s to be expected. But over the last decade, I see more patients coming in with dry eyes because of excessive smartphone use.”
He suggests his patients take short, regular breaks from their phones, even if it’s just 20 seconds every 20 minutes to focus on something else across the room. You can also use artificial tear eye drops to alleviate symptoms.
According to the British Chiropractic Association, more young people are developing back problems as they spend time looking down at their smartphone screens. This leads to poor posture, which is a leading contributing factor for back, neck, and other spinal problems.
To keep your own spine safe, be aware of how you use your phone. Simply hold your head and neck upright, and then hold the phone in front of your face.