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4 Ways Cell Phones Could Be Affecting Your Health

January 23, 2016

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Conventional wisdom would say brush your teeth and shower, but for many people their day starts with a cell phone in hand.

You probably leave your phone on your nightstand, so it’s just within arms reach. You roll over to the side of the bed, grab the phone and immediately check your email, surf the web, or post your good morning facebook selfie!

In today’s digital world, it’s increasingly difficult to unplug. But making this effort is critical, because your health could depend on it. Here are four ways constantly reaching for your cell phone could unknowingly affect your health.

It Affects Your Sleep

Do you use your cell phone before bed? If so, stop doing it. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 95 percent of people use electronics a few nights a week within an hour before bed. However, the light from your cell phone disrupts your sleep because it tricks your brain into thinking it’s time to wake up. Also, what you are reading may hyperstimulate your mind when you should when you should be winding it down.

Solution: Keep your cell phone in another room or turn it off before bed.

It Puts Tension on Your Body

Constantly looking at a phone screen and texting can lead to aches and pain — so much so that doctors have coined phrases like “text neck” and “text claw” to describe this phenomenon. It’s no different than getting carpal tunnel because you sit at a computer all day. Continuously swiping your hand across the screen or using your fingers to scroll through a page can put tension on your limbs. Extending your neck for long periods of time to view whatever is on your screen also can lead to neck pain. These repetitive movements can also become addictive as each movement allows you to get stimulated by your phone or its apps. 

Solution: I know it’s hard, but try to limit your cell phone use to essential activity. Keep it in your purse, back pocket or glove compartment when driving to minimize the impulse to reach for your phone (you shouldn’t be texting and driving, anyway). Keep your phone away from the dinner table and implement a rule in your household that limits cell phone use after a particular time (after dinner is usually a good compromise).

It Isn’t Good for Your Eyes

Doctors say cell phones can lead to “digital eye strain.” According to The Vision Council, about 88 percent of adults spend two hours a day on a digital device, and at least 10 percent of people spend 75 percent of their day on these devices — which equals 18 hours every single day.

Experts say all this screen time may lead to blurred vision, eye fatigue and dry eye.

Solution: Schedule an appointment with your doctor to undergo an eye exam. Once you check your vision, take preventative measures to preserve it. Many companies now sell eyewear that protects your eyes from the blue light emitted from cell phones, computers and other digital devices. And as I mentioned before, take regular breaks away from your smartphone and computer. Even periodic 15-minute breaks can protect your vision.

It Makes You More Sedentary

With smartphones, computers, tablets, TV and countless other electronic devices, it’s easy to sit for most of the day. But studies have shown that the more digital we get, the less fit we are. A Kent State University study showed that students who spent most of the day on their cell phones — upwards of 14 hours — were less fit than those who only spent 90 minutes a day on these devices. Another study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity indicated that avid cell phone users were more likely to skip exercise and were less physically fit than people who did not use their cell phones as frequently.

Solution: The key takeaway here is that cell phone use makes you more sedentary. It’s virtually impossible to check your phone and run a mile at the same time. Unless you’re using fitness apps to workout at home, there’s no reason to have a smartphone constantly at your hip.

Take a break from the digital world as often as humanly possible and instead use that time to get healthy and stay active. Your thumbs and neck will be grateful for it.