How Can Screentime Impact Our Mental Health?
How Does Blue Light Affect Mental Health?
Whether you’re a student, gamer, professional or binger of Netflix, chances are you spend a good amount of time in front of a screen. It’s nearly impossible to avoid some kind of exposure to blue light on an average day, even now while you read this post it’s happening. (Did we just break the fourth wall? Is that how that works?)
Anyway, the point is that prolonged exposure to blue light can take a toll on more than our vision. Not only can our quality of sleep take a dive, our stress levels and mental energy can go haywire too.
Unfortunately, we can’t always unplug and blue light may be a common part of our day-to-day lives. However, there are some ways to give ourselves a mental reboot so we can bounce back from the effects of blue light and prioritize our mental wellbeing.
What is Blue Light?
Blue light is the kind of light emitted from many electronics with screens. It’s a type of high-energy visible light (HEV) which means that it has a shorter wavelength and packs more of a punch to our eyesight and energy levels.
Another good example of HEV, natural sunlight, helps modulate our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle.
Longer wavelengths tend to contain less energy and can also be easier on the eyes. Red is on the lowest end of the energy spectrum while violet is at the highest. That’s why you’ll see some phones and computers offer a “nighttime mode” that either dims the brightness or creates a warmer hue until sunrise.
On the flipside, if you’re struggling to wake up or need to wake up before the sun is up, looking at your phone might actually help “trick” your brain into thinking it’s time to rise and shine.
Is Blue Light Bad for Your Eyes?
Since blue light carries high amounts of energy, it can lead to concerns with macular integrity, especially as we age. According to Dr. Abnous A. Samford, some of the most common effects from exposure to blue light are eye strain and fatigue.
Approximately 80% of Americans use a digital device for more than two hours a day—which means a good majority of us will likely experience some form of eye strain or fatigue due to screentime.
Blue Light and Restful Sleep
Are you a frequent doomscroller when you should be catching some Zzzs?
One of the biggest culprits for blue light impacting mental health is its tendency to subdue our body’s natural ability to produce melatonin. This hormone is needed for our circadian rhythm to work properly (i.e. getting tired at night, waking up in the morning).
Disruptions to our sleep-wake cycle can cause us to have difficulty falling asleep, struggles getting enough sleep and problems with our quality of sleep. In order to keep yourself from tossing and turning, turn off any screens or devices at least 30 minutes before bed (if you can manage two hours even better).
So instead of diving headfirst into your favorite apps or social handles, consider a book… or whale sounds… or whatever helps you wind down before bed. We don’t judge here.
Blue Light and Stress Levels
There’s more than one reason that Twitter and Facebook can make our blood boil. Studies are suggesting that blue light can actually raise our cortisol levels. Not only can higher levels of stress cause a shift in our otherwise pleasant mood, it can also interfere with getting restful, restorative sleep.
Not to mention the effect stress has on our ability to think straight and get tasks done on time (or done well).
So, before you think about engaging or feeding the internet trolls, it might be kinder to your mind to take a step back, go outdoors or get together with some of your favorite people to level out those bad vibes.
Blue Light and Mental Energy
Believe it or not, prolonged screentime can even impact our cognitive skills or mental energy. As our eyes go through more and more fatigue, our productivity, accuracy and focus can decrease as the day goes on.
This also circles back to our sleep being disrupted. If we don’t give our body and mind ample time to recover, we’re less likely to function at our best and may feel sluggish or unmotivated to tackle what the day throws at us.
Taking breaks throughout the day can help, but if you’ve go work to do, vitamins like zeaxanthin, bilberry and lutein can help you power through until it’s time to sign off.
How to Recover from Prolonged Screentime
If you’re in serious need of a digital detox and mental reboot, there are some great options to help get you started.
- Take breaks and limit your screen time
- Create a come-down routine that focuses on self-care without screens
- Aim for 6-8 hours of sleep to give your mind a chance to recoup
- Try the 20-20-20 rule (look away from your screen every 20 minutes at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds)
- Roll your eyes, blink more and yawn to keep your eyes from getting dry and to release tension that builds up
One of our favorite nutrients that helps us recover from eye strain and fatigue from blue light is digital detox: REST, RESET & REFRESH™. Not only is it optometrist recommended, it’s great for both getting through prolonged blue light exposure on long days and recovering afterward as well.
Combined with these healthy screentime habits, we’re good to go all day… but not all night because we’re trying to stop doomscrolling too.