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Mental health and Screen-Time

By Rachel Parodneck, LMSW

Most of us spend hours per day on “screen-time” meaning time spent in front of an electronic device. Whether that is a computer monitor, cell phone, TV, or movies, we are spending more time than ever in front of screens. Ever wonder the effects screen-time has on your mental health?

One problem in particular is the effect screen-time has on our sleep: a problem occurs when we use our screens at night. Typically, when the sun sets, we produce the hormone melatonin. This hormone regulates our circadian rhythms, helping us feel tired and fall asleep. But many studies have found that blue light from screens can disrupt this process, (Anderson, D. & Wilkin, R., (February 8, 2019). What does a reduction in melatonin look like? Being more alert before bed, taking longer to fall asleep and reach a deep state of REM, and finding you are more tired the next morning. I think we can all relate to that.

At the National Institute of Health, another study found that people who spend more time in front of electronic screens have more sleeping problems, which could compromise their ability to cope with stress, resulting in increased feelings of depression or anxiety. Screen time (TV watching and computer using outside work or school) was associated with moderate or severe depression among US adults. (Madhav, K.C., Shardulendra, P.S., Sherchan, S., (October 18, 2018). 

What can we do to ameliorate this problem? 

Victoria L. Dunckley M.D. compiled a list of ways to protect the brain from daily screen time. The highlights?

  • Incorporate more movement. Exercise fights depression, poor focus, insomnia, addiction, and anxiety by raising and balancing the very brain chemicals and hormones that become imbalanced from using electronics.  
  • Practice healthy sleep hygiene. This can be accomplished through limiting the use of electronics after sundown and especially directly before bed. 
  • Tone down the brightness levels on ALL screens.  
  • Practice Mindfulness in the form of meditation, yoga, and breathing.
  • Get a light box that mimics the sun’s rays and use it daily in the morning.

So remember, all is not lost! Follow the tips above and if your mental health is an issue you are growing concerned about, talk to your therapist or book an appointment at Refresh Psychotherapy today.

References:

Anderson, D. & Wilkin, R. (February 8, 2019). Business Insider. What staring at a screen all day does to your brain and body. Retrieved from: 

https://www.businessinsider.com/screen-time-effects-health-vision-staring-at-screens-bad-for-you-2019-1

Dunckley M.D., V., (April 1, 2017). Psychology Today. 10 Ways to Protect the Brain from Daily Screen Time. 10 evidence-based strategies to prevent overstimulation from screen-time. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201704/10-ways-protect-the-brain-daily-screen-time.

Madhav, K.C., Shardulendra, P.S., Sherchan, S., (October 18, 2018). National Center for Biotechnology Information. National Institutes of Health. Association between screen time and depression among US adults. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574844/