Technology’s Affect on Mental Health

In this day and age, our lives are hugely supplemented by technology. Without our phones, laptops, tv’s, wireless routers, and Bluetooth devices our world would crash.

But is there a price to be paid for convenience and speed?

These devices, that most of us spend ten-plus hours on daily, emit something called blue light. This blue light can be detrimental to our health.

Technology’s interference with our circadian rhythm

The National Institute for General Sciences describes circadian rhythm as

“physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm.

Natural factors within the body produce circadian rhythms. However, signals from the environment also affect them. The main cue influencing circadian rhythms is daylight. Changing the light-dark cycles can speed up, slow down, or reset biological clocks as well as circadian rhythms.”

The body produces a hormone called melatonin which is known as the sleep hormone. This hormone regulates sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin production is affected by the light and dark cycle of our environment.

Darkness signals to our brain to begin producing more melatonin and when there is more light in the environment the brain is signaled to stop melatonin production.

Technology is used around the globe twenty-four hours a day. When technology is used at night, the blue light that is emitted from our devices interferes with our regular melatonin production and therefore our circadian rhythm.

Without melatonin, it is hard for our bodies to fall asleep and/or have the quality of sleep that is needed for recovery. A 2017 article found in Translational Psychiatry stated that “sleep disturbance is an important factor contributing to the onset and maintenance of mood disorders,” among other health problems.

American Psychological Association released a study that showed that the rates of mood disorders and suicides have dramatically increased in the last ten years. While it may still be somewhat controversial, studies are beginning to show the correlation between technology use, sleep disturbance, and the rise in mental illness.

What you can do

Harvard Health wrote an article about blue light stating,

“Researchers at the University of Toronto compared the melatonin levels of people exposed to bright indoor light who were wearing blue-light–blocking goggles to people exposed to regular dim light without wearing goggles. The fact that the levels of the hormone were about the same in the two groups strengthens the hypothesis that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin. It also suggests that shift workers and night owls could perhaps protect themselves if they wore eyewear that blocks blue light. Inexpensive sunglasses with orange-tinted lenses block blue light, but they also block other colors, so they’re not suitable for use indoors at night. Glasses that block out only blue light can cost up to $80.”

The Harvard article went on to describe how other colored light may have some effect on melatonin production, but that blue light was by far the biggest culprit in decreasing melatonin production. By decreasing your blue light exposure at night you may save yourself from experiencing health problems down the road.

Along with blue-blocking glasses, there are apps and filters that you can put on your phone and computer to block the blue light at night.

For further study check out these additional articles: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/should-you-be-worried-about-blue-light

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/