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Problem 5: Sleep Disruption
If you’ve ever laid with a laptop in bed, you’re well aware of the sleep disruption digital devices can cause. Whether you’re watching TV or you’re still geared up at 10PM answering emails, in-bed device use keeps your mind buzzing late into the night. But even if you close your laptop at the end of the work day, you may still have problems falling asleep, as the light from the screen can throw off your circadian rhythms. In essence, while you might feel tired, the light from your computer screen will convince your body that it’s still high noon, which will make snoozing a real problem.
Lack of sleep only leads to greater fatigue and sleep disruption. This in turn can lead to anxiety and depression.
It’s not just any old light that throws off your rhythms: it’s blue light, which our bodies are programmed to stay attuned to. As you might have guessed, this is exactly the kind of light that digital screens emit. To counter its effects, add a filter to your screen. Or install a program like f.lux. This app will automatically adjust and tinge your screen based on the time of day to fit with your natural rhythms.
It’s also well worth taking a look at creative ways to improve the ergonomic lighting of your office setup. Opt for soft, yellow rather than fluorescent lighting in your overheads. Or, switch entirely to an energy efficient, incandescent desk side lamp. You’ll also want to keep your screens as dim as possible so that screen brightness doesn’t disrupt your rhythms. That said, don’t make the screen so dim that you have to squint. Which, in turn can lead to the development of Computer Vision Syndrome.
And yes, we know, we’ve said it a million times before — in this series, let alone on our site — but the best thing you can do is to take more breaks and turn your devices off. If you can’t do it during the day, then at least set a cutoff time at night, and really stick to it. You’ll get more done if you give your body — and your mind — the time it needs to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Your circadian rhythms — and the people around you — will thank you.
Problem 6: Lack of Movement
To say that our digital habits lead to a lack of movement would really be the understatement of the decade. With all of that typing, gaming, social networking, and emailing, it’s a wonder any of us ever get off of our ergonomic chairs (or the couch). A sedentary lifestyle greatly increases the risk of obesity. This in turn can lead to numerous health problems, from diabetes and other metabolic disorders to cardiovascular disease. In fact, according to research found by ergonomist Kathy Espinoza, our inspiration for this piece, we spend an average of 9 hours sitting each day. And likely more, if we combine sitting time in the office with time spent watching TV at home. That’s a problem, given that just over 6 hours is when the risks start to rise.
Alas, there’s really no creative hack for this one. We simply have to get up and move more. Bike to work. Hold a walking meeting. Exercise before, during, or after your work day. Park in the furthest spot in the lot. Play active video games on the Wii rather than a sedentary game on the couch. Although don’t play too long, or else your forearms and wrists might develop “Wii-itis”. Make your own standing desk, or lobby your company to set up a meeting room full of treadmill desks. Power walk to the break room, take the stairs, do jumping jacks at your desk, find a workout buddy colleague. Just do whatever motivates you to get up and get going!
Next Time On: My iPad is Killing Me!
If you enjoyed this installment of My iPad is Killing Me!, you won’t want to miss next week. Keep your eyes peeled, and in the meantime, get moving!
A special thanks to Kathy Espinoza for her help with this series.
Kathy Espinoza is a Board Certified Professional Ergonomist, with dual master’s degrees. She has an MBA and a Master’s Degree in Work Science/Physiology. Kathy has worked at Keenan for over twelve years providing ergonomic assessments and injury prevention training to office personnel, hospital workers, fire departments and city and county staff.
She taught Ergonomics in the Workplace at UC, Riverside for ten years and was the 2010 recipient of the UCR Instructor Excellence Award. Kathy has been a keynote at professional conferences on the topics of stress reduction, ergonomics, the graying of the American workforce, employee engagement, the culture of wellness, working with multi-generations in the workforce and post-recession leadership. She has 54 articles published in the field of ergonomics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org