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Wellness Tips In the Age Of Increased Screen Time

  |   By Alison McGill

All photos courtesy of BonLook.

You may have noticed your iPhone’s weekly screen time report is a little shocking since we began self-isolating. Never have people spent more time on their device—you’re keeping in touch, reading the news, video conferencing, watching movies and shows, doing your social media and of course wedding planning! All that time spent staring at a screen takes its toll. Have you noticed your eyes are extra tired, but you’re completely wired when you go to bed?

Taking a break is now more important than ever! We chatted with Stephanie Kersta, a psychotherapist and co-founder of Hoame meditation studio in Toronto about the impact screen time and blue light has on your wellbeing and what you need to do to keep a good balance and energy flow.

What are the effects of prolonged screen time on our health and wellness? “From a sleep quality perspective, prolonged screen time has been linked to difficulty both falling and staying asleep, as well as a decreased duration of sleep overall week over week. Excess screen time also delays us from getting into our deep restorative REM sleep. This is due to the fact that blue light emitted from screens suppresses our melatonin production temporarily. From a mental health perspective, we are seeing early studies linking prolonged screen time with low mood and depression, which is concerning. Of note, is that video games do not seem to have the same effect so further studies are needed in this category. From a physical health perspective, the excess time spent sedentary is linked to a whole host of health problems, including cardiovascular, and chronic health conditions, we also see adverse effects of too much sitting/laying down on mental health as well.”

At this time, screen time has become our main way of life and people are spending so much time on devices. What guidelines do you recommend and how much screen time is too much? “We are all seeing our screen time reports increase these days! Whether it be checking the news a great deal or escaping in social media we are all glued to our phones at this time. While there is no hard and fast guideline on how much time is too much time, I would recommend looking at your screen time prior to this pandemic and see how much it has increased. I would also look at how you are spending your extra screen time. Are you doing online workouts, online meditations and video calling friends and family? I wouldn't worry too much about that, however if you are just passively consuming social media, that will have more adverse effects on your overall health.  If you find you are spending too much time passively consuming media, my first goal would be getting back down to the time you spent on your phone pre-pandemic or looking to incorporate some healthier screen time uses such as online workouts, meditations and video calls. Ideally, two or three hours before bed is when you should be cutting off screens. I appreciate how difficult that is in our day and time, so I do recommend blue light glasses as a way to try to offset some of the adverse effects of the blue light. If everyone could put their screens away one hour prior to bed and engage in some healthy evening routines such as taking a bath, light stretching, legs up the wall pose, journaling, having an herbal tea, or having sex, we would see better sleep quality overall.

What steps can you take to protect your eyes from blue light? “Wavelengths on the light spectrum exist in a range of colours, one of these being blue-violet—that’s what is commonly known as blue light. Visible to the human eye, it is the shortest wavelength on the spectrum and thus produces a higher amount of energy (this is also why the sky is blue!) There are two types of blue light: blue-turquoise light (the good) which stimulates the production of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; and blue-violet light (the bad) which increases visual fatigue, a form of eyestrain which is often caused by a dependence on or overuse of digital devices. Blue light protection filter lenses are transparent and have a slight residual yellow tint to them—but with no blue reflection as compared to a Blue Light protection coating. They help soften the harshness of harmful light providing more comfort for your eyes. In fact, they contain light-absorbing molecules which are able to protect against the harmful effects of blue light. BonLook is an amazing Canadian eyewear company which incorporates high quality blue light protection into any of their frames, so even if you have a prescription you can take advantage of their glasses. Added bonus: they still are delivering to your door!”

Any other tips for selfcare and putting down tech? “I would encourage using tech for selfcare especially at this time. Find ways to try different meditations, stream some workouts, and make it a point to connect virtually with friends and family.  I would also look at what you are using your tech for, and what you get from being on your screens, could you find a non-screen substitute?  If you find you aren't really getting anything from your tech, but it has more so become a crutch or habit, then I would encourage looking at various non-screen selfcare strategies to spend your time instead (exercise, reading a book, going for a walk, taking a bath, stretching, meditating, etc.).


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