5 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Stare At A Screen All Day
When I don't want to get out of bed in the morning, I reach for my phone and scroll through my emails because I know it'll make me feel more awake. And it's a known fact that looking at a screen makes you feel the opposite of sleepy.
After that, I go to work, where I look at a laptop for eight hours straight. Even when I'm on my lunch break, I go on my phone to check Instagram.
When I get home, I'm back on my laptop, reading my favorite blogs, doing research on whatever or watching "Shark Tank."
Then before bed, I scroll for another hour.
So yeah, I'm definitely like the average American who spends 10 hours a day looking at a screen. And even though we don't like to think about it (I don't), we generally know staring at screens isn't so great for us.
In fact, all-day screen usage really does a number on your body, including your skin and even your mental health.
Your mom wasn't kidding when she said you'd go blind if you didn't look up from the TV once in a while. Well, you probably won't go blind, but your eyes definitely take a toll.
Here are five ways staring at a screen all day can screw with your body:
1. Dry eyes and blurry vision
If you're one of those people who stares at a computer screen all day, you're probably always reaching for some eye drops. That's because staring at a screen dries the shit out of your eyes.
See, screens make us blink less. And even though we literally never think about it, blinking is important. People tend to hold their phones about 8 to 12 inches away from their faces, which means you automatically blink less.
And the less you blink, the drier your eyes are. It also makes your vision more blurry. Better have those eye drops handy!
In case you didn't know this already, blue light (the light from your screen) is not good for you at all.
This is something we've known for years, but I doubt our amount of screen usage is going to change any time soon.
It's very similar to UV light. So when you're exposed to it for long periods of time, it damages very important cells on the inside of your eyes, like the ones that help you actually see.
People in their 20s, in particular, have it the worst in terms of eye strain symptoms.
Are we surprised? Not one bit.
Optometrist and medical adviser to The Vision Council Justin Bazan told TIME,
What we're finding is that Millennials especially are very comfortable working on multiple screens and multiple devices.
He explained we "have a digital device the second [our] eyes are open," way before we even flip open our laptop screens.
Yep, that sounds like me. Good thing my eyesight is already terrible.
If you thought the fact that we're all basically frying our eyes out of our heads was bad enough, it turns out staring at screens too much may also be linked to depression.
In a study, lab mice were exposed to three and a half hours of bright light followed by three and a half hours of darkness. Researchers aimed to imitate the human behavior of binge-watching TV before bed.
After a few weeks of this, the lab mice experienced symptoms of depression and produced increased levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
Another study done in Sweden had 4,100 men and women between the ages of 20 and 24 self-report on their technology and screen use habits and how they felt.
The study found people who were constantly accessible to the world on their phones were more likely to have mental health issues. Plus, they found that using a computer frequently without taking a break increases the risk of sleeping issues, stress and depression in women.
Screens are killing us, guys.
Focusing on a computer screen or a phone screen is harder for your eyes and brain to do than you think.
And since we hold them way too close to our faces, our eyes have to constantly re-focus, since they would be way more comfortable focusing on a distance that's farther away than our screens.
The never-ending strain causes headaches.
So yeah, if you have a job where you're looking at a screen all day (most of us), you may want to keep some aspirin or something next to your eye drops.
4. Neck and back pain
If you took one second to look up from your phone while walking down the street, you'd see lots of other people staring down at their phones with their necks curled forward. I mean, who lifts their phone up to their eyes? That just requires way too much arm strength, if you ask me.
So if your back and neck are particularly achy, your screen is to blame. Well, your bad posture because of your constant screen use is to blame.
According to experts, constantly looking over our phones leads to "forward head posture." Do you know how heavy your head is? By looking down all the time, your neck is working extra hard to hold up 10 to 12 pounds.
Now, you may feel pinched nerves and general achiness from "text neck," but later, this can cause major damage to your spine.
5. Cyber sickness
Do you ever look at your phone so much you feel dizzy? I have.
It's actually because of a real illness called cyber sickness, or digital motion sickness. If you ever get it, you might feel a headache coming on or feel a little woozy, especially when you're quickly scrolling or watching something on your small phone screen.
Why does this happen? Well, it's the result of your senses being all mixed up. Professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School, Steven Rauch, told the New York Times,
Your sense of balance is different than other senses in that it has lots of inputs. When those inputs don't agree, that's when you feel dizziness and nausea.
Apparently, these symptoms occur more in women than men, but it can happen to literally anyone.
So you're probably wondering, "How the hell do I avoid all of this?"
The answer is simple: Take more breaks from staring at a screen throughout the day.
For every 20 minutes of screen time, you should be taking a 20-second break. Obviously, that's hard to keep track of. But just make sure to get up from your desk or look up from your phone more often.
Actually, now that you're done reading this article, I encourage you to put your phone down, give your eyes a rest and space out for a few minutes. Your body will appreciate it.