Do you need a digital detox?

Digital technology has revolutionised our lives. People are better connected than ever before through their smartphones, laptops and tablets, spending more time plugged in than powered down. But could this 24/7 high tech exposure be damaging your health? 

The growing pressure to stay constantly online

According to new research, time spent on screen in this country has increased by 42%, with the average Briton now spending at least seven hours a day on screen.*

Half of all UK adults admit to being hooked on their smartphones, checking them on average a total of 85 times a day, a third of the time that we are typically awake.**

However, all this digital downtime comes at a price - being so preoccupied with your digital devices for long durations can affect your vision, your sleep patterns, your stress levels, your concentration and even your mood. Maybe it's time to take the plunge and just switch off...

The average Briton spends at least seven hours a day on screen

Sight for sore eyes

Excessive exposure to electronic screens can be bad news for your sight. Screens are particularly harsh on the eyes as we constantly have to focus and refocus and, when used for more than two hours at a time, can lead to Digital Eye Strain. This 21st century condition produces a whole host of symptoms including dry, irritated eyes, blurred vision, eye fatigue, neck and back pain and headaches.

Protect your eyes with the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away

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Beware dry eye syndrome

Another effect of staring at a screen for long periods of time is that it decreases the eye's blink rate by up to two-thirds, leaving the eyes dehydrated and in some cases the vision blurred. Dry eye syndrome, caused through digital overload, is a common problem seen by many opticians. It can be a particular concern for contact lens wearers, where blinking is especially important to keep the contact lens moist.

Research shows that temporary eye strain and dry eyes are prevalent problems for office workers.  When you are at your screen, try and actively remind yourself to blink and also take regular breaks.

A soothing, warm eye mask, such as the MGDR Eyebag, £20, a mask which you heat in the microwave, can help ease the discomfort. For more details visit http://eyebagcompany.com

Have regular eye check-ups, especially if you use a screen for your work. If you wear contact lenses, talk to your optician about your various options. Bausch + Lomb have just introduced Ultra contact lenses, featuring MositureSeal Technology which incorporates moisture for a full 16 hours to prevent dry, irritated eyes.

For more top tips take the Digital Eye-D test at http://ultracontactlenses.co.uk/digital-eye-d to find out your digital profile.

Sleep easier

Sitting in bed on your laptop, tablet or smartphone, last thing at night can play havoc with your shuteye. Artificial blue light given off by digital devices interferes with the production of the hormone melatonin which is vital for getting to sleep and this can lead to sleep deprivation, affecting memory, concentration and mood.

It's important to try to have at least one- two hours before bedtime where all digital devices are disconnected to allow your body to unwind properly and prepare for sleep.

Not just a pain in the neck

Digital overload can also have a physical impact too. Beware of 'text claw' - the name given to hand cramping caused by constantly scrolling and texting.

Similarly craning over your smartphone, laptop or ipad for hours at a time can strain your neck and back muscles, leading to pain, headaches and bad posture.

Sensory overload

If your mobile or tablet is constantly buzzing, beeping or vibrating in your hand or pocket every few seconds, it means you are constantly having to respond and process the information in a very short space of time. As you are continually bombarded with information, the amount your brain can store decreases, affecting not only your memory but your ability to concentrate. There is a very good reason why it is is illegal to drive while using a handheld phone or similar device.

*OnePoll research commissioned on behalf of Bausch+Lomb, May 2016  **Published in scientific journal Plos One                               

Try this digital detox

Maybe it's time you took a tech timeout. Here's some simple rules to help wean you off the wifi. Disconnect your devices and reconnect with your friends, family, work and the environment...

1

Work out a daily time allowance for your devices and stick to it. During your digital downtime, take time out to read, exercise or just enjoy the moment.

2

Set a deadline in the evening - switch off all devices at least two hours before you go to bed.

3

Keep tech out of the bedroom - it does nothing for your sex life. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles reveals a decrease in the amount of sex we have now compared to 20 years ago. Experts say we are more likely to take technology to bed than a partner. Leave your digital devices to charge in a different room.

4

Don't rely on your phone for your early morning wake-up call - buy yourself an alarm clock!

5

Use tech to beat tech - download an app, such as Moment, which will tell you just how much time you spend online. You can use it to set yourself daily limits.

6

Take a break and go for a walk - and don't take your phone.

7

Keep your phone switched off when driving and out of reach.

8

Buy yourself a wrist watch (and I don't mean a smart watch!). One of the most common reasons for looking at a smartphone is to check the time.

9

Cut back on social media - leave online groups you never engage with; edit your Facebook list; stop following blogs and sites you never read and unsubscribe from mailing lists.

10

If you are really worried about your 'always on' lifestyle, book yourself in for a digital retreat.

Find out more at: http://www.itstimetologoff.com

DISCLAIMER: The material presented on this website is not intended to replace the advice and recommendations from a qualified doctor or other health practitioner. Always consult your doctor or health practitioner if you have any health concerns and before embarking on any health, fitness or wellbeing programme. See my full Disclaimer here

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