How Much Time Are We Spending On Screens?
Working from home has come to the forefront of the American workforce in the last year. It is expected that many of the trends of working remotely or even hybrid office/home work will continue, as many employees have appreciated the increased freedom to work where they would like.
However, staying indoors more, combined with working from home has caused many Americans to develop shocking habits when it comes to how much time they are spending in front of a screen. This includes cell phones, tablets, television, and computer screens. It is estimated that the average American looks at screens for over 6 hours a day. Some estimates even put that number as high as 8 or more hours a day.
Prior to many work-from-home restrictions, most Americans were getting just 4 hours a day of screen time. This still is quite a surprising number when we think about eye strain. It’s not only eye strain we have to be concerned about though. As we’ll discuss below, spending excessive amounts of time looking at screens without taking breaks can be harmful to our emotional health and sleep as well.
The Effects Of Screens On Our Eyes
The vast majority of digital screens are lit with a backlight that emits blue light. This is also sometimes known as high-energy visible light wavelengths, or HEV. When we look at this high-intensity blue light for extended periods, it can begin to severely dry out our eyes. It is estimated that working from home has only amplified our eyes’ fixation on our screens. In an office environment, we are more likely to change our point of focus frequently when we talk to coworkers or move between desks.
How Digital Media Affects Our Brains
If you’ve ever felt somehow less happy after looking at your phone for a few hours, you may be right. Research is beginning to show how an increase in digital screens and digital media consumption can increase the risk for negative impacts on mental and emotional health. In one study, it was noted that increased screen time directly correlated with higher levels of both anxiety and depression. It was particularly true for women, but also all people ages 35-64.
It is also worth noting that overexposure to the news through digital media can also lead to an increased risk of experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Screen Time At Night Can Affect Sleep
We’ve covered how getting a better night’s sleep can positively affect not only our physical health, but also our mental health as well. When blue light from your phone, computer, or tv enters your eyes and your brain recognizes it, it can put a stop to naturally falling asleep. This is because the blue light suppresses the melatonin releasing functions of your body. Melatonin is essential in having your body naturally begin its sleep cycle.
Steps You Can Take
Luckily, improving your eye health, along with your emotional health, is relatively easy to improve with just a few simple recommendations we have.
When you need to stare at your screen for multiple hours for work or school, you can help your eyes recover by taking a short break every 30 minutes or so. Even looking away from your screen every few minutes for about 20 seconds at something distant can help break the strain on your eyes. Drinking plenty of water can also indirectly combat the risk of developing dry eyes while looking at digital media. Making sure the room is adequately lit can also reduce eye strain caused by high contrast settings.
Track Your Screen Time
Regarding emotional well-being, it’s crucial that you are aware of how many hours you spend on your screens every day. Danu recommends keeping a simple journal for a week or so to see just how many hours you’ve spent consuming digital media. The results may be eye-opening. On many smartphones, some apps can count how long you spend not only on your phone, but also on each individual app or category of apps. Set limits on certain screen activities each day and enlist the help of a friend to stay accountable. It’s easy to go overboard, especially with social media!
Form Good Sleep Hygiene
Not getting enough sleep never feels great. There’s solace in knowing that we have the power to improve our sleep cycles through better sleep hygiene. By shutting off our screens or other forms of digital media at least an hour before we intend to be asleep, we can dramatically improve our sleep quality. There has also been anecdotal evidence that the hemp plant terpene CBD may be able to aid with falling asleep. It’s easy to consume in Tinctures or even Gummies. It’s important to try a variety of good sleep forming habits that suit your body best.
Small Changes Make A Big Difference
While it’s nearly impossible (nor necessary) to completely eliminate digital media time in our present society, we can all take these simple steps to improve our eye health and emotional well-being.