Seven Ways Your Smartphone Can Affect Your Health and How to Prevent Them
By Space Coast Daily // October 21, 2020
Smartphones have become an integral part of our lives. They are usually the first things we reach for in the mornings and the last things we use at night. But then, some smartphone habits could be affecting our health in ways we didn’t anticipate.
Let’s take a quick look at seven ways your smartphone could be affecting you, and what you can do about it.
Neck and posture
Until computer glasses become inexpensive and mainstream, we will always need to stare down at our phones to use them. But this practice has an awkward and unnoticed effect on our neck and posture.
The human spine was designed as a straight and erect mechanism. Any practice that forces you to bend for prolonged periods has a risk of causing you pain, discomfort, and sometimes, long-term complications. You can prevent this by always bringing your phone to eye level whenever you need to read an email or watch a video.
Sleep and rest
Smartphones affect our sleep and rest patterns in a lot of ways. One of the most obvious examples is how we sometimes leap out of bed to check the latest email or text. Even the notification tone has the potential to wake you from sleep since you’re so familiar with it. This sleep interruption is terrible for you.
Your phone’s blue lights can also affect your ability to fall asleep quickly. Blue lights have been shown to promote wakefulness, which means you may not be able to sleep for up to thirty minutes after using your phone. Ironically, we fiddle with our phones when we can’t sleep, thus propagating the cycle even more. A simple solution to this is using a blue light filter on your phone at night.
Some new research has linked smartphone use to weight gain in surprising and insightful ways. Sleep disruptions caused by smartphones have been linked to reducing the hunger-regulating hormones, leptin and ghrelin. These hormones make sure you eat just about enough food.
Unregulated eating habits can cause weight gain, and eventually, obesity. Another link between obesity and weight gain is physical inactivity. We feel comfortable accessing the world with our phones, and so, our activity levels reduce daily. Drawn over several weeks and months, it will lead to weight gain.
Reduced social interaction
One of the great things about smartphones is that they reduce the distance between any two people, regardless of where they are in the world. But then, this also means we no longer have a reason to interact physically with those around us. We can simply send them a text or emoji.
The implications of this are diverse. Firstly, we humans thrive on physical, social interaction. Without it, we become predisposed to illnesses. Additionally, research by the University of Michigan found that the barrage of information online and reduced social interaction may lead to reduced empathy levels in our lives.
As we become more dependent on our phones, we develop an unconscious addiction. Every time we interact with our phones, our brains use a new pathway to process the feelings we experience. Because notifications, likes, and reactions make us feel good, those pathways become stronger.
The process is similar to other, more harmful addictions like drugs and bad relationships. Eventually, we start to care about the same feelings, and may even go to extreme lengths to achieve them.
Reduced attention span
The sharp decline in attention span is well-documented by scientists and phone users alike. It has become harder to focus because of the constant influx of notifications we get on our phones. This is partially because we’re constantly multitasking.
Thus, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to less than eight. According to a Microsoft study, a reduced attention span is more pronounced in people who use multiple screens often.
Potential car accidents
Statistics show that cell phones are responsible for over one in four car crashes in the United States. Distracted drivers who text and drive are on the top of this list. Even though we know how dangerous it is, it hasn’t stopped many people from doing it.
You may not be safer walking because texting while walking is just as dangerous, according to experts. Some estimates have it that texting has resulted in more pedestrian injuries per mile than driving. Isn’t that a scary statistic?
What’s the way forward?
Even though these statistics are scary, we can’t exactly banish smartphones from our lives. They are also responsible for many of the advances in the last decade, from connecting people to making our lives easier. The solution is to find a safe way to use our phones without letting them take over our lives. Here are two tips that can help.
Lead a healthy lifestyle.
From increased risks of obesity to irregular sleep patterns, many of the adverse effects are health-related. The good news is that good health habits can reverse these effects and give you good health. For example, studies by The Sleep Foundation have shown that exercising can improve your sleep.
A healthy diet that includes vegetables and protein can also improve your mood by promoting caloric balance. Plus, some dietary supplements, like Zillis ultracell from Elite Health Products, can help with the pain and muscle aches you get from staring down at your phone.
Practice smartphone breakup
A smartphone breakup is a practice of staying away from your phone for a period. The details of this idea are highlighted in “How to Break Up With Your Phone” by Catherine Price. She recommends 30 days, but you can begin with a short 12 hours to see how it feels.
The goal of the phone breakup is to help you realize that you can live without your phone and encourage you to do it more often. Besides avoiding all the adverse effects we discussed earlier, you also get a sense of pride from disconnecting with your phone.