As our reliance on electronics increases, we have to ask ourselves: How is this affecting our health? When it comes to smartphones and computers, both can have a pretty big impact on both our physical and our mental health.
It’s totally unrealistic to simply advise people to use their smartphones and computers less often. Sure, you can take a social media break or avoid using them outside work hours, but because so many of us rely on our devices for work and communication, sometimes putting them down isn’t even a viable option.
So, what exactly is the problem with using our cell phones and laptops, and how can we reduce their impact on our health without necessarily putting them down altogether?
The Problem With Blue Light and How to Fix it
First of all, the blue light from our electronics can affect our sleeping patterns. Exposure to blue light at night can make people more alert and affect their circadian timing. In fact, exposure to any bright light can affect your sleep because it delays onset of the sleep hormone melatonin, but blue light is the most detrimental to our health. It’s important to note that this can affect children, including teenagers, more than adults, though everyone should avoid blue lights prior to sleeping.
Harvard University wrote: “Study after study has linked working the night shift and exposure to light at night to several types of cancer (breast, prostate), diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.”
A Harvard study found that blue light can suppress melatonin for approximately twice as long as green light, and can shift circadian rhythms by twice as much (three hours in comparison to one and a half). Another study conducted by the University of Toronto found that blue light is extremely efficient at suppressing melatonin, which is crucial for sleep.
The good news is that there are tons of ways you can mitigate your exposure to blue light. There are numerous apps that adjust the colour of your screen; for example, a popular one that I personally use is f.lux. This app allows your computer screen to adapt to whatever time of day it is, mimicking daylight during the day and warmer colours at night to reduce your blue light exposure.
You can even set this app to be on 24/7 and adapt to the time automatically, so you never again have to be blinded by your computer screen early in the morning or late at night. What’s more, you can time the filter to match your particular rising and sleeping times, so it’s strongest when you specifically go to bed and weakest when you wake up.
Lots of smartphones now have these apps automatically built into them as well. I use Night Shift on my iPhone, which was already installed into my phone and automatically shifts the colour of my screen at certain times during the day and night.
The following infographic from Frames Direct illustrates why it’s important to reduce our exposure to blue light and how to do so effectively:
It’s important to note that blue lights aren’t the only concern when it comes to cell phones and laptops. You have electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from these devices, the potential link to cancer, and more. However, there are always ways to mitigate these issues, and you could even get a sticker for your electronics to reduce EMFs or place items around you that are high in negative ions (diffusers, Himalayan salt lamps, etc.).
It’s totally understandable that some people just can’t put down their phones and laptops at certain times. That’s why it’s so important that we do what we can, and reducing your blue light exposure is an easy way to avoid harmful effects from your electronics!
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