In our technologically-driven world, mobile phones have become an integral part of our lives, providing us with constant connectivity and convenience. Nonetheless, these smartphones are simply virtual cages. A person feels completely uncomfortable if the smartphone is not beside him. These virtual cages have created barriers to the limit that even in a nuclear family the members hardly get any time to talk to each other. Be it at breakfast, lunch or dinner the family members frequently grab their smartphones into their hands and scroll over social media. The story doesn’t end here! Even it is most common that people are going to bed with their smartphones alongside them, which substantially contributes to their usage in the dark.
The usage of smartphones in dark environments, such as during night-time or in dimly lit rooms, becomes more prevalent, and concerns arise regarding the potential adverse effects on our health and well-being. The adverse effects of using smartphones, particularly in the dark, are quite conspicuous in the younger generation; facing both health and behavioural issues at a very young age. It is a fact that India ranks second in the list of smartphone users amounting to around 659 million, following China with more than 974 million users. Statistically 65% of the population in India is aged under 35 years and the smartphone user share in the age group 16-24 years is 37%, while the share of the age group 25-34 years is 34%. However, in India, many people ignore or don’t follow precautions and let their smartphone addiction take a toll on their health.
A recent eye-opening incident was reported from Hyderabad, where a 30-year-old woman had an addiction to using her smartphone excessively at night and her habit of night scrolling over social media made her almost lose her eyesight. Amid such incidents, what is appalling is the sheer carelessness demonstrated by parents when they put their smartphones into the hands of toddlers merely for the reason that they can manage their other activities hassle-free. This not-bat-an-eye attitude of parents can have serious consequences on the overall well-being of their children. Although the excessive use of smartphones in the dark puts many things on the line, here we delve deeper into some of the risks and explore the various ways they can impact us negatively.
Disruption of sleep patterns: One of the primary concerns associated with using smartphones in the dark is the disruption of sleep patterns. The blue light emitted from the screens can have a significant impact on our sleep. This blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle. Prolonged exposure to blue light before bedtime can lead to difficulties falling asleep, poor sleep quality, and even sleep disorders such as insomnia. The disruption of our natural sleep patterns can have far-reaching consequences on our overall health and well-being.
Eye strain and visual discomfort: Staring at a bright screen in a dark environment can cause significant eye strain and visual discomfort. The stark contrast between the bright screen and the surrounding darkness forces our eyes to constantly adjust, leading to eye fatigue, dryness, and blurred vision. The phenomenon known as “dark adaptation” becomes a challenge when we expose our eyes to bright screens in dark environments. Prolonged exposure to such conditions may contribute to long-term eye problems, including digital eye strain and other vision-related issues.
Increased risk of digital eye strain: Using mobile phones in the dark exacerbates the risk of digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome. The combination of prolonged screen time, reduced blinking, and poor lighting conditions in the dark intensifies the strain on our eyes. Symptoms of digital eye strain include eye dryness, redness, and irritation, headaches, and neck or shoulder pain. The impact of digital eye strain can be detrimental to our visual health and comfort, affecting our daily lives and productivity.
Negative impact on mental health: Smartphone usage in the dark can also have a negative impact on our mental health. Excessive screen time and exposure to stimulating content during night-time can disrupt our natural circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. This disruption can lead to mood disturbances, increased anxiety levels, and heightened stress. The constant exposure to the blue light emitted from screens further compounds these issues. The combination of disrupted sleep patterns and negative impacts on mental health can have a profound effect on our overall well-being, affecting our ability to function optimally in various aspects of life.
Impaired cognitive performance: Engaging with smartphones in the dark can impair cognitive performance. Reduced lighting conditions strain our cognitive resources, making it more challenging to focus, concentrate, and process information effectively. The cognitive strain resulting from using smartphones in the dark can have implications for productivity, learning, and daily tasks that require mental acuity. It is essential to recognize the potential impact on cognitive function and take measures to mitigate these effects.
In conclusion, while smartphones have undeniably transformed the way we live and communicate, it is crucial to be aware of the potential adverse effects of using them in the dark. To mitigate the risks, it is advisable to limit smartphone use in the dark, reduce screen brightness, and consider using apps or settings that filter blue light. Prioritizing good sleep hygiene and maintaining a healthy balance between screen time and offline activities are essential for overall well-being in the digital age.
The author is a Postdoctoral Fellow at IIT Bombay and can be reached at [email protected]