If you're like me you spend upwards of 40 hours a week staring deep into the depths of your computer screen. As you may be aware, living a life on a computer can lead to issues in more ways than one. Although there are issues that may arise from spending so much time looking into screens there are ways to mitigate such issues as well as ways to avoid any issues at all. I want to talk today about a few of the potential issues that may come from long periods of screen time. I also want to highlight a few of the methods a little screen time has brought to my, and now your attention. I also want to preface this little blurb with a "grain of salt" as some do say.
I am not a medical professional and all of what I'm going to cover here should be taken with this in mind. Do your own research to figure out what works well for you and to take everything I cover here as a general suggestion with the backing of some science and well-meaning research but little else.
To start off I want to talk about something that has been covered a fair amount with specificity toward computers. I want to start off talking about your eyes.
With new technologies, computers are branching into the world outside of visible spaces but for the most part our eyes are what guide us through computerized spaces. From scrolling down a page or lurking on reddit to coding a new app or posting on reddit our eyes are constantly moving, refocusing and mapping the visual spaces we interact with on our computers and other screens. As such our eyes are put through constant stress when we interact with screens. Many of the issues that arise from such stresses are covered throughout different forms of literature but for the most part, the culmination of these stresses is generally referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
Computer Vision Syndrome more specifically is associated with eye issues that arise from the misuse of your eyes when viewing screens. The primary symptoms of CVS are "eyestrain, tired eyes, irritation, redness, blurred vision, and double vision" (Blehma et. al., 253, 2005). Some other symptoms associated with CVS are related to posture and will be covered later on in this blog.
Funnily enough for those without specific predispositions for non-CVS eye diseases most of the eye issues associated with CVS have been correlated with eye dryness and screen distance but little else(Blehma et. al., 260, 2005). With this in mind some treatments may seem obvious but implementing them may seem less so. For now, I'll suggest the obvious and later I'll cover some tips to keep your eyes safe. As it may seem obvious, and kind of ridiculous, blinking more and keeping your computer at a distance of more than 40cm or 1 1/2 feet is ideal and will help keep eye strain to a minimum.
We've all been there. Grinding out that last page or dope super necessary function maybe even a win in Apex or Dota and just as you’re getting ready to hang it up for the day your hand reaches up to ease the kink in your neck when its painful claw shape can barely muster the strength to scratch the strange itch on your calf near the blue bulging vein just below your knee. Now with your aching back and shoulders and your useless crumpled noodle fingers, a sudden sharp chest pain leaves you curious as your vision begins to fade and you, like your noodle fingers, crumple into a heap on the floor. HEART ATTACK!
Alright maybe we all haven't been there exactly, but although the often known ails of computer use, such as carpal-tunnel syndrome, back and neck pain, and Deep Vein thrombosis are probably your first thoughts when thinking of computer-related injury, heart disease is the real killer when it comes to the sedentary lifestyle constant computer-use commonly engenders.
I'm assuming most of you reading this have had at least one of these symptoms after spending an ungodly amount of time cranking out something awesome on your computer but the ailment y'all should be considering is the impact sitting for too long is having on your heart. A study of transport workers found that those who sat for the majority of their day as opposed to those who were standing for most of their day had twice the likelihood of developing heart disease-related conditions(Morris, 1953, Biswas et. al., 2015). Yes, twice the likelihood even when almost all other life factors were considered. Not only is heart disease a major issue, but an inactive heart can lead to many other issues even those considered above as well as many others including diabetes(Biswas et. al., 2015) dementia (Ahlskog et. al., 2011), and cancer(Schmid & Leitzmann, 2014)!
All of these symptoms, neck-pain, back-pain, carpal-tunnel syndrome, or deep vein thrombosis as well as other more serious ailments that may arise from sitting for too long. Again maybe some obvious solutions to some real and life-threatening issues but get up get out and get active to quote a hip-hop artist not often quoted enough.
Although we may spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer and your livelihood may depend on it you're not inevitably going to live a shorter life. There are tactics to keep from shriveling into a heap. The STAY ACTIVE! Keeping active into your later years 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day will prevent most of the issues that may arise from a long term sedentary lifestyle. Not only a little exercise a day but a great tactic for addressing long hours of sitting is standing and stretching twice an hour for a few minutes. The major issue that leads to most of the health problems that may arise from sitting for too long can be negated by only a few minutes of standing. Not only does standing help with your heart and all that it powers it will give your hands, arms and eyes a necessary break that will work toward negating the strain that leads to carpal-tunnel and computer vision syndrome.
A final thing I want to touch on is to avoid screens in the last few hours of your day to achieve more restful sleep. Not only is good sleep a positive experience it is also necessary for learning and maintaining a healthy brain.
- Use timers to regulate your screen time
- Focus on one task at a time to keep on track and follow through with your goals.
- Take breaks to allow time to destress and avoid burnout.
- Keep work separate from play.
- Practice meditation to help relieve physical and mental stress.
- Take time to stretch
- Lubricating eye drops
- Specialized 'computer glasses'
- Specialized contact lenses
- Consulting an eye doctor to look into predispositions for specific eye disorders.
- Take breaks!
So all in all, protect your heart and get a little exercise or at the very least take measures to stand up every once in a while. If you take care of your heart almost every other part of your body will be more protected from other ailments.
Schmid, Daniela & Leitzmann, F., Michael (2014). Sedentary behavior increases the risk of certain cancers, JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute,106(7). doi:10.1093/jnci/dju206
Biswas, A., Oh, P. I., Faulkner, G. E., Bajaj, R. R., Silver, M. A., Mitchell, M. S., & Alter, D. A. (2015). Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(2), 123. doi:10.7326/m14-1651
Ahlskog, J. E., Geda, Y. E., Graff-Radford, N. R., & Petersen, R. C. (2011). Physical Exercise as a Preventive or Disease-Modifying Treatment of Dementia and Brain Aging. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 86(9), 876–884. doi:10.4065/mcp.2011.0252
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