It’s hard to get away from technology. Between our cellphones, computers, tablets, and TVs, digital entertainment is everywhere. But your favorite gadgets can actually have a negative impact on your health. In fact, you could unknowingly have several bad tech habits causing poor sleep patterns, bad posture, and eye problems. Here are six electronic habits to avoid.
1. You binge-watch TV before bed
Have you ever spent an evening catching up on some of your favorite TV shows, only to find that when bedtime rolls around you’re wide awake? It’s because watching TV before bed negatively impacts your sleep. “The bright light of TV stimulates the brain, which can affect the secretion of melatonin, a hormone necessary for quality sleep,” W. Christopher Winter, M.D., explains to Men’s Health.
In fact, according to a SleepRate survey, 55% of respondents noted their before-bed TV sessions were costing them up to three hours of sleep per night. In addition, 46% of workers and 23% of moms and dads said the lack of sleep was impacting their jobs and parental commitments, respectively. To help combat before-bed binging, SleepRate recommends turning the TV off in the middle of an episode instead of the end. This way, you won’t be tempted to watch another episode when the show you’re watching ends at a cliff-hanger.
It’s important to try to limit your TV intake, especially on workdays. If you’re going to watch a show, tune in early enough so your body has time to unwind before you go to sleep.
2. You keep gadgets in your bedroom
Here’s another one that can really harm your sleep patterns. If you have any sort of gadget in your room, whether it’s a tablet, TV, computer, or even the glow of an alarm clock, it can make it extremely hard for you to fall into a sound, deep sleep.
“One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation,” Mark Rosekind, Ph.D., former director of the Fatigue Countermeasures Program at the NASA Ames Research Center, told WebMD. Basically, if something in your room is glowing, it’s interfering with your melatonin.
In addition, if you’re playing a video game or working on the computer before bed, it causes your body to tense up. Even a little tension can cause your body to release cortisol, a stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland, which causes you to feel wired instead of sleepy. Luckily, the solution is simple: Just unplug before bed. WebMD writes that you should turn off all technology in your bedroom prior to going to sleep. Also, give yourself 15 to 30 minutes of technology-free time before bed.
3. You stare at your tablet
Tablet users often look at their device while it’s resting on their lap, which puts a lot of strain on the neck muscles. “If you think about your position when you are hunched over looking down, your head is hanging out over space, so you are using your neck muscles to support the weight,” said Jack Dennerlein, director of the Harvard Occupational Biomechanics Laboratory, to the Los Angeles Times.
If you catch yourself staring downward, move your tablet to a table-movie position; it’s the only position where your posture is neutral, which ensures that not a lot of strain is being placed on your neck. Remember, if you’re using your tablet for a decent amount of time, try to move around as much as possible.
4. You sit with bad posture
Most jobs require that we sit in front of a computer for hours on end. When you add bad posture into the mix, it’s a recipe for disaster. PC World writes that bad computer posture can cause carpal tunnel syndrome; it already affects 5.8% of the population. The standard treatment, even for a mild case? Surgery. An easier solution? Be proactive by using proper posture.
To fix your posture, keep your chair at a height so your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, and your monitor should be placed directly in front of you with the top of your screen at eye level. Your keyboard should be placed so your wrists are parallel with the floor. Ta-da! Perfect computer posture.
5. You regularly scroll through newsfeeds
You know how if you’re around a negative person, it starts to rub off on you? Turns out, a negative person on social media can do the same exact thing. In fact, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, just reading a negative post or update can put you in a bad mood. An easy fix? Delete users who are always negative, and keep things in perspective when you start to feel envious of someone else’s life. Remember, people usually only share the good things, such as exotic vacations, but it doesn’t mean that’s what they’re always doing. Rather than compare, focus on the positives in your life.
6. You don’t take breaks
Step away from the computer screen (after you’re done reading this, of course). Breaks are necessary for good health. If you stare at a screen all day without giving yourself a break, you’re doing much more damage than you may think. Your joints, muscles, circulatory system, and eyes all need a break and a change of scenery throughout the day, writes PC World. Sitting for hours on end can even cause blood clots to form, while the eyestrain that comes from staring at a computer screen can impact your vision, even making it dangerous for you to drive home.
Ready to fix it? Set an alarm clock reminder to get up and stretch your legs regularly. Another fix? Keep a bottle of water at your desk, making sure to sip it regularly. Not only will it keep you hydrated, but it also forces you to get up and go to the bathroom (thus causing you to take a break), per PC World. That’s what we call a win-win.