How much of time are you spending looking at a screen?
Does this screen time stretch well into the night?
For most of us, the answer is yes, screen time for most people stretches late into the night. Our screens emit blue light, this is what makes it harmful, not only on our eyes, but on our sleep-wake cycles as well.
Until just a few decades ago, the sun was our primary source of exposure to blue light. Blue light is important to our daily lives, as it helps to regulate our circadian rhythms, also commonly referred to as our sleep-wake cycles. Exposure to blue light tells our bodies that it is time to stay awake, and absence of blue light, that it is time to go to sleep. So previously, after sundown, our bodies, due to the lack of blue light, would start winding down for the day in preparation for sleep.1
Since our lifestyles have changed, and screens are now a new source of blue light in our everyday lives, a change in circadian rhythms has been noted. Our sleep-wake cycles have shifted away from being linked to night and day. 1
Research has also linked disrupted circadian rhythms to systemic conditions such as cognitive dysfunction and insulin resistance. 1
How does blue light affect our eyes?
Research has shown that blue light from digital devices can result in blurry vision, eyestrain, dry eye, macular degeneration, and cataracts. It has also been stated, about 50% of computer users suffer from digital eye strain.2
Symptoms of digital eye strain
How do you know if you are experiencing digital eye strain? Listed below are some of the symptoms.
- Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes
- Watery or dry eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Sore neck, shoulders or back
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling that you cannot keep your eyes open3
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, try putting the 20-20-20 rule into practice.
For every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20 second break, to look 20 meters away. This will help relax your eye muscles, making it more comfortable. However, if you are putting this into practice and still experiencing some of these symptoms, it may be time for an eye examination.
Good screen time practices
Leading doctors suggest limiting screen time, outside of work related activities, to two hours per day. Turn off your notifications to prevent unnecessary screen time. Set limits on your screen time, this includes the television and electronic reading devices. It is advisable to stop digital exposure two hours prior to bed time, however, if this is not possible, you should aim for at least 30 minutes before turning in. 4
Once we begin limiting our screen time, we may realise how much time we actually have! If you are a parent, setting healthy screen time routines for yourself will set good examples for your children as well.4
- Why Screen Time Disrupts Sleep [Internet]. Ramsay Health Care. [cited 3 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.ramsayhealth.co.uk/about/latest-news/why-screen-time-disrupts-sleep#:~:text=Circadian%20rhythm&text=As%20we%20are%20exposed%20to,insulin%20resistance%20and%20cognitive%20dysfunction.
- 2. Seltman W. How Blue Light Can Affect Your Health [Internet]. WebMD. 2020 [cited 3 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/blue-light-health
- 3. Eyestrain – Symptoms and causes [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [cited 3 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eyestrain/symptoms-causes/syc-20372397
- 4. Screen Time Limits Aren’t Just For Kids. Why Adults Need Them Too [Internet]. Henryford.com. 2021 [cited 3 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.henryford.com/blog/2021/12/adult-screen-time-limits#:~:text=%22Most%20experts%20agree%20that%20adults,%2Drelated%20activities%2C%22%20Dr