Technology is a part of our everyday lives. From desktops and laptops to tablets and smartphones, technology is integral for getting work done, learning new skills, and connecting with friends and family. While technology can help us live healthier and happier lives, it can also negatively affect our physical health. Today, we’re taking a look at a few ways technology could be hurting your health and what you can do about it.
Health Issues Influenced by Technology
Take a moment to think about your posture. Are you craning your neck to get closer to your computer screen? Are you hunched over your phone? Often, we contort our bodies to more easily use technology, which puts stress on the spine, shoulders, and neck. In a small 2017 study, researchers found that heavy smartphone use contributes to neck and back pain and could eventually lead to chronic musculoskeletal pain. Even with good neck and back posture, repeated texting and typing could play a role in the development of Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) like carpal tunnel.
If you’re feeling achy, tight, or sore from heavy phone or computer use, try:
Making your workspace more ergonomic
Checking your posture often and correcting it as needed
Taking frequent stretch breaks
Talking to a doctor about chronic musculoskeletal pain
As technology use increases, so has reports of digital eye strain. The most common symptoms of this condition include eye discomfort, blurred vision, dry eyes, and headaches. Typically, these symptoms tend to become more severe the longer individuals use technology, and contact lens users may experience more symptoms compared to non-lens users.
To prevent digital eye strain, or to alleviate your current symptoms, the American Optometric Association recommends following the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break by looking at something 20 feet away.
TVs, smartphones, and computer/tablet screens all emit blue light, which can negatively affect your sleep, throw off your circadian rhythm, and suppress your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90% of people in the US use technology in the hour before they go to bed, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep. In turn, these individuals get less REM sleep, which can make them less alert the next morning.6
To protect your sleep cycle, create a technology cutoff before bedtime. Ideally, you should give yourself an hour or two of screen-free time before going to bed, but if that seems unrealistic for you, start with 30 minutes. To make this easier, try moving technology out of your bedroom and switch to more mentally relaxing activities, like reading.
Keep track of how your body feels when you’re using your digital devices. By taking frequent breaks and following the tips in this article, you can better protect your health while enjoying all the benefits technology offers us.