This is the stress police, step away from the computer and put the phone down

Smartphone Zombies

By Ccmsharma2 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

First off, I would like to start this post by apologising for the horrible joke in the title, I just really wanted to use that joke because it seemed too perfect not to, despite it being bad! Right, now that that’s out of the way, let’s carry on to the real post.

Nowadays almost everyone spends their days in front of a screen, whether it’s for homework, for our job or just for fun, we’re always in front of the computer or on our phone. The thing is, apart from the obvious health issues which come from just sitting in front of a computer instead of moving about, did you know that staring at the screen for too long can actually lead to stress and depression?  But why is that?

A lot of you must have heard about how the light from the screens in computer monitors and phones makes it harder for us to sleep. The reason behind this is, the light disrupts the production of a chemical called melatonin in our brain which we need to feel sleepy; and it also messes with our biological rhythm, making it harder to have deep restorative sleep. So basically the entire reason we get stressed out and depressed when staring at screens is because it causes lack of sleep. Well there we go, point made, this post is over.

Nah, it isn’t over, there is more to this that I still need to explain. As I said earlier, a lot of you have probably heard about screens and sleep before, but didn’t really believe it. Well here’s the proof.

Doctoral student Sara Thomée and her colleagues from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, conducted four studies to find out the effects of excessive computer and smartphone use on stress levels, the quality of sleep and the general mental health of young adults. These are some of their findings:

  • Increase in cell phone use showed an increase of sleep disorders in men and more symptoms of depression in both men and women.
  • People who used cell phones more were most likely to report mental health issues
  • People who regularly used their computers late into the night were more likely to be associated with sleep disorders, depression and stress
  • People who used both cell phones and computers regularly displayed a much stronger association with these disorders

I got all of this information from the article, “Heavy Technology Use Linked to Fatigue, Stress and Depression in Young Adults”, by David Volpi, M.D., P.C., F.A.C.S. posted on huffingtonpost.com , so if you want to read more about it then you should check out the article for yourself.

If you read the article, it focuses more on how using technology and mental disorders are related, but I think it has more to do with how using technology disrupts sleep. This is because all the stress and depression related stuff they talk about, also comes about because of a lack of sleep. I wrote a post about how sleeping is important in fighting stress so you can check that post out too (put link here), if you’re interested.

The way I see it, the best way to solve this problem is to set up a sleep schedule or more like a technology curfew. Depending upon your lifestyle and your responsibilities, you should set a time when you will turn off the phone and computer. Let’s say you’ve set that time to be 11 pm; as soon as the clock strikes 11, you should turn off the technology. This way your brain gets a chance to make some melatonin and you’ll feel sleepy and go to sleep when you are supposed to. It may be hard, but it needs to be done.

I feel  like a hypocrite talking about this since I do spend so much time on my computer, but I like to think that I’m smart enough to realise good advice when I see it. So I’m going to do my very best to follow my own advice on this and if all goes well, I’ll be happier for it. I will say this (more to save myself than anything else), you don’t have to follow the curfew every day, you can let go every now and then, but be smart about it, don’t just use this loop-hole as an excuse (I’m talking to you me, I know what you’re thinking, I’ve got my eye on you).

Anyway, remember that technology is supposed to be a tool to make life easier; don’t let it ruin your life instead. So make up that curfew and stick to it. Now turn off your phone/computer, do it. Don’t just open a new tab or something, turn it off. Now!

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