In today’s digital age, screen time has become an integral part of our lives. With the increasing use of smartphones, tablets and gaming devices we spend a significant amount of time in front of screens. While technology has made our lives easier, excessive screen time can have a negative impact on our eyes, physical and mental health.
Read on to find out about the the effects of screen time on our health and ways to manage it.
What is blue light?
Sunlight contains red, orange, yellow, green and blue light rays. Combined, this spectrum of coloured light rays creates what we call ‘white light’ or sunlight. Depending on where they fall on the spectrum, light rays have long wavelengths (with less energy) or short wavelengths (with more energy).
Blue light is a high-energy visible light and has shorter wavelengths. It is known as blue light because it is on the violet-blue band of the spectrum. Blue light is naturally present in sunlight but is also something we can see from screens such as TVs, computers, smartphones and tablets.
Can blue light damage my eyes?
There is currently no scientific evidence that blue light causes damage to the eyes. However, there is evidence to suggest that carrying out near tasks, involving looking at something close-up, such as using mobile devices, screen time and reading a book, can increase eye strain for those who do this for long periods of time.
What is digital eye strain?
Digital eye strain happens when a lot of time is spent using near vision, for example, reading on screen or playing online games. Digital eye strain does not cause permanent damage to your eyes but can be uncomfortable. One of the main symptoms is temporary blurred vision but other signs such as sore and tired eyes, dry eye and headaches are also associated with digital eye strain.
The effects of screen time on our health:
- Eye strain: Staring at screens for long periods can cause eye strain, blurred vision, dry eyes, and headaches.
- Sleep disturbance: The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt our natural sleep cycle and may lead to insomnia.
- Obesity: Spending too much time in front of screens can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which in turn can increase the risk of obesity and related health issues.
- Poor posture: Sitting in front of screens for long periods can lead to poor posture, neck, and back pain.
- Mental health: Excessive screen time has been linked to increased stress, anxiety, and depression.
Ways to manage screen time:
- Set limits: Set a limit on the amount of time you spend in front of screens. Experts recommend a maximum of two hours of recreational screen time per day.
- Take breaks: Take frequent breaks and look away from the screen to reduce eye strain and prevent headaches. Follow the 20/20/20 rule:
⏰ Every 20 minutes
⏰ Look at something 20 feet away
⏰ For 20 seconds
- Practice good posture: Sit up straight and keep your screen at eye level to prevent neck and back pain.
- Use blue light filters: Use blue light filters on your devices to reduce the impact of blue light on your sleep cycle.
- Engage in physical activity: Engage in physical activity to break up your screen time and promote a healthy lifestyle.
- Read a book: Instead of staring at a screen, try reading a book, which can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Does screen time affect sleep?
Using screens close to bedtime may contribute to poorer sleep, which may mean your concentration levels are lower during the day. This may be because blue light is linked to the suppression of the hormone melatonin which makes us feel sleepy. However, there is a range of other factors linked to disrupted sleep.
Can blue light filtered lenses help?
Some people report that lens coatings that filter blue light make their eyes feel more comfortable or are helpful before bed, but there is no clear scientific evidence to support this. There is also no evidence that these kinds of coatings prevent eye disease.
Is blue light harmful to my eyes?
Several studies have been carried out into the effects of blue light, and research in this area is still ongoing. Some past studies have revealed that exposure to blue light can lead to changes in animals’ eyes. However, because the time and intensity of exposure to blue light in these studies was far more than that of natural daylight and that of screens, this does not show that blue light is harmful to eyes.
Does screen time cause myopia or short sightedness?
Short-sightedness, or myopia, is increasing throughout the world. Family history, ethnic background, environment (living indoors, in cities) and carrying out near tasks, such as screen use, have all been linked to the development of myopia. However, there is no clear evidence to suggest that screen time alone is the direct cause.
Is screen time bad for children’s eyes?
There is currently no scientific evidence that blue light causes damage to the children’s eyes. Follow these tips for keeping your child’s eyes healthy:
- Get them outdoors – regular play and exercise can help prevent or reduce the development of myopia (short-sightedness). Studies show two hours of outdoor activity a day is ideal.
- Using night settings, if your device has them, may help children sleep by reducing the amount of blue light given off by the screen during night-time hours.
- Make sure digital devices are turned off at least an hour before bedtime.
- Book your child in for a sight test every two years, from the age of three, or more often if your optometrist recommends it.
Screen time is an inevitable part of our lives, but excessive screen time can have negative effects on our health, including our eye health. By setting limits, taking breaks, practicing good posture, using blue light filters, engaging in physical activity, and reading books, we can manage our screen time and promote a healthier lifestyle.
Remember, moderation is key, and finding a balance between screen time and other activities can help us lead a healthier and happier life.