New data by Ofcom has revealed that screen time surged more than a third during the April lockdown, and with the UK and many parts of the world entering into similar stay at home measures, our dependency on screens could increase even further during the winter months. But did you know that excessive screen time is detrimental to both your mental wellbeing and your physical health?
Statistics recorded at the height of the first lockdown UK adults spent more than 40 per cent of their waking time glued to a device, a daily average of four hours and two minutes online. This is up from just under three and a half hours in September 2019.
As we enter a socially distanced winter, our smartphone, tablet and laptop screens will once again become the window to our social lives, entertainment, education, workouts and so much more – not to mention the millions of people who use a screen for work every day.
Here are three reasons why you should swop a screen for a socially distanced walk this winter:
- Too much screen time can lead to Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a condition resulting from looking at a computer or other display device for protracted, uninterrupted periods of time; because pixels constantly refresh and the eyes must constantly refocus to see the screen clearly, the eye muscles are unable to recover from the strain. It is also proven that people blink less frequently when staring at a screen, which causes eyes to dry out and in some cases can result in blurred vision. Glasses wearers that have incorrect or outdated prescription lenses can also be more susceptible to CVS.
Signs of CVS are often overlooked, but left unchecked, could lead to longer term eye health issues. Symptoms include eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and neck and shoulder pain. Fortunately, computer vision syndrome and digital eyestrain is not a permanent vision problem, but something that can be controlled with some simple changes in behaviours. Vision experts from www.essilor.co.uk recommend taking a break every 20 minutes – going outdoors if you can. You can also buy blue-violet filtering lenses (Eyezen) which help to protect against visual fatigue.
2. It can impact the duration and quality of your sleep
As healthy adults our bodies follow a natural 24-hour sleep cycle. As the sun rise and we wake in the morning we produce a hormone called cortisol which makes us feel awake and alert and then as the sunsets and we move into night time we produce a hormone called melatonin which prepares us for sleep and rest.
Unfortunatley the blue light emitted by screens and digital devices can play havoc with this natutral cycle and have been shown to affect the production of melatonin making it harder for people to fall asleep. It can also reduce the quality of your sleep which is crucial for cognitive functioning.
Moving from a screen for work to that Zoom call with friends could not only be damaging to your eyes, it could also mean that your sleep is impacted so try and put your laptop, tablet and phone away in the evening – at the very least two hours before bed. Instead, you could give your eyes a break by taking a walk in a well lit area and catching up face-to-face (whist two metres apart).
3. It could give you a bad back
Sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time is not only bad for your eyes – it could lead to back pain, poor posture and even wrist strain.
Looking down at a phone or tablet can put your spine in an unnatural position and places stress on your muscles, nerves and ligaments. Testing and typing can also result in soreness around your wrists and forearms – especially if you work from a computer all day and your chair and desk are not configured to the correct height.
To prevent these aches and strains – pay attention to your posture, take time out to stretch and rebalance and take some exercices.
Dr Andy Hepworth is from leading vision and lense innovator Essilor.