Humans seem to have an intuitive knowledge that too much screen time isn’t good for us. Digital detoxes are now a popular phenomenon in health-conscious communities, and today’s parents are increasingly concerned about the amount of time their kids spend looking at screens.
Television is one thing, but today, many of us also spend our working hours in front of a computer, and our spare moments browsing social media. So what kind of health issues should we be concerned about?
You may have heard that screens emit blue light, a type of light present during the daytime. Biologically, humans have grown accustomed to seeing blue light only during the daytime, and the presence of this type of light suppresses the production of melatonin (a hormone that helps you fall asleep). For many people, looking at screens in the evening can mess with hormones, making it difficult to fall asleep.
If you work in an office, you’re probably all too familiar with the feeling of screen fatigue. You know what I’m talking about — that feeling where your eyes have a hard time focusing, often leading to fuzziness and headaches. While more of a symptom than a health problem, there’s no doubt that screen fatigue is unpleasant and can make you feel unwell.
Internet addiction is a very real thing, and the World Health Organization recently named Gaming Disorder as a global problem. Rally Health explained how our brains become addicted to screen time:
“Dopamine, the “feel-good hormone,” is part of the brain’s pleasure and reward circuits. Playing video games turns on similar brain regions as those linked to cravings for drugs and gambling, Ditto for social media — every time we see a new post or get a reaction to ours, it’s like a hit of brain candy,” author Melissa Pandika writes.
Unfortunately, it looks like all of this screen time can actually change the physical brain. Psychology Today reports that people who suffer from internet addiction experience shrinkage in the areas of the brain where grey matter is present. These areas are responsible for a number of functions, including planning, organization, impulse control and decision making.
All of these effects are serious health concerns, but there’s one parallel issue that tends to come along with a lot of screen time: inactivity. Sedentary lifestyles are known to lead to numerous health problems, including not only weight gain, but chronic disease.