We love our phones and can’t live without them, right? But what if those very devices that we all rely on, that we love, that we feel naked without are actually aging us every single time we use them?
Did you know that the average American spends one-third of their day on their phones, and over 70% sleep with their phone on, and near their beds? Basically, that means most of us to have our phones with us or near us at all times.
It’s not just our phones that are causing problems, but our tablets and computers too! We’re tied to our phones for work – to stay connected to our families and friends, to browse social media, and even to shop online.
We live in an amazing time where we can have a powerful computer in the palm of our hands, take photos, video chat and send thousands of emails with the touch of a screen. Sounds like a dream, right?
Turns out that along with the dreamy conveniences of our devices come some nightmarish effects on our looks, our energy, our moods, and our overall health.
EMFs and Blue Light: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are invisible physical fields produced by electrically charged objects. They are created naturally by the earth and living creatures – both humans and animals – as well as plant life.
Weather, solar, and planetary events also produce EMFs. These natural EMF sources have a positive impact on our health. In fact, grounding or earthing (the act of physically connecting your body with the earth such as walking outside barefoot) can be a great healing activity, as can hugging a tree (no joke, go ahead and try it!)
However, man-made sources of EMFs such as power lines, cell phones, computer, and electrical equipment pose a significant health risk based upon recent research which shows these have a different effect because the wavelength, frequencies, and strength are increased.
Emerging science shows a disruption in circadian rhythms (wake/sleep cycles) and decreased production of melatonin related to EMFs near sleeping locations. Melatonin is well known as a sleep hormone, but it is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-aging hormone.
Melatonin also inhibits the release of estrogen and increases the production of testosterone. Lower levels of melatonin lead to more estrogen and less testosterone in the body, which is one risk factor for certain cancers such as breast and prostate.
The flip side of this is that digital devices keep melatonin’s antagonistic hormone, cortisol, high. This also triggers an increase in belly fat, higher blood pressure, lowered immune response, insulin resistance, and more.
EMFs may also change levels of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which affects mood and anxiety levels. Increased adrenaline levels create the same destructive effects on the body as prolonged and chronic stress.
Our digital devices and our televisions also emit blue light. Excessive blue light exposure can accelerate the oxidation process which means accelerated aging.
Studies have shown that blue light’s oxidative effects induce inflammation and damage the skin barrier making it more prone to signs of aging, increased uneven skin tone, dullness, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines and wrinkles.
Believe it or not, turning off your devices just might be the least expensive and most effective anti-aging treatment you can do.
Many of us (you know who you are) are sitting in bed at night staring at our screens, whether it be to read on our Kindle, swipe through social, or binge watch Netflix. This practice not only results in less time sleeping, but actually lowers the quality of sleep we are getting.
This translates to impaired cognitive function – for every hour of sleep lost, it is the equivalent of drinking two beers. The average adult requires a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep, as less than that leads to cognitive impairment.
In addition, studies show that dependence on smartphones lowers our memory and problem-solving capabilities and creates a sort of lazy brain syndrome. When is the last time you actually remembered a phone number?
The Curse of Connection
How long have you gone today without checking your phone? Many people check their phone several times per hour, while some check their phone every few minutes.
Notifications create a constant dopamine hit every time our phone buzzes or beeps, and we grow to need more and more of it. Our phones are like a drug – we check it and check it, which can lead to anxiety and depression.
This constantly connected society makes us feel like we always have to be “on” and available and that we are expected to respond to all requests immediately. This can create a great deal of stress and inability to relax.
We become tired and wired, like walking zombies, with our heads tilted down. Artificial electronic notifications have taken place of our own intuitive signals. We become so disconnected with nature and our bodies’ own rhythms that we lose sight of what we need and many of us can’t even recognize our own hunger signals anymore.
This means that if you are spending time on your phone, especially before bed, or keeping your phone turned on and next to (or heaven forbid, in) your bed at night, you are disrupting your body’s natural circadian rhythms and hormone balance.
Some of the effects of evening digital device use include disrupted sleep, weight gain, moods that are all over the place, memory loss, imbalanced blood sugar, and headaches. You probably don’t even realize the effects that your phone, tablet or computer may be having on your health!
Unfortunately, it’s not just EMFs and blue light that we have to worry about when it comes to our phones. And it doesn’t just affect us; it can also be a problem for future offspring.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that men who use cellphones a lot – more than four hours per day consistently – had lower sperm quality. Now, this could be caused by something other than the phones themselves. For example, maybe men with low sperm counts just like to be on their phones, while their more virile male counterparts choose to conduct their meetings face-to-face, but given the statistics for phone usage, that’s most likely not the case.
This may be a good reason to encourage the men in your life to put down their phones, or at the very least not carry them in their pockets or rest their laptops and tablets on their laps. (I know they are called laptops, but they should never be placed on the lap!)
Women aren’t off the hook either. A 2017 study that examined the role of oxidative stress in female fertility and in vitro fertilization (IVF) showed that oxidative stress may damage the oocytes (cells in the ovaries) and may impair their fertilization capacity and lead to embryo fragmentation and formation of numerous developmental abnormalities.
In addition, overproduction of reactive oxygen species has a significant impact on the success of IVF.
In other words, the oxidation caused in the body by blue light could not only be making women less fertile, but could also lessen the effectiveness of fertility treatments and even cause abnormalities in the development of the fetus. Again, another great reason to put down those phones for a while.
And as if all of this weren’t enough to scare us off of our phone for good, we’re now seeing signs of a new condition called “Tech Neck.”
Most of us sit in positions where we’re looking down at our phones, with our necks bent. This leads to tension in our neck and shoulders, headaches, eye strain, and can even put our whole spine out of alignment. This can lead to problems with posture, back, neck and headaches, and a whole range of alignment-related nervous system issues.
And let’s not forget about the effect of gravity and the fact that chronically keeping your head and neck this position contributes to sagging skin, jowls, and wrinkles.
What Can We Do About It?
Don’t worry, all is not lost here. I’m sure many of you are thinking “Getting rid of my cell phone is not an option.” I get it – we all need phones to do our jobs and stay connected. So, how do we combat all these things?
Fortunately, awareness can provide opportunities to protect ourselves. When possible, eliminate man-made sources of EMFs or reduce exposure by increasing the distance, and decreasing the time, spent around power lines, microwaves, electrical equipment, etc.
You can also wear blue light blocking glasses in the evenings and at night to help reduce the amount of blue light you see, which helps keep your natural circadian rhythm working properly.
Now, blue light blocking glasses won’t protect your skin from aging, but it will help with circadian rhythm and melatonin production.
You can also focus on strengthening the body systems as a whole by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle.
Supplementation with adaptogenic herbs may reduce EMF-induced oxidative stress. Other antioxidant supplementation that combat free radicals include superoxide dismutase, melatonin, and Vitamins A, C & E.
Eating the rainbow – a diet rich in plants of all colors – is vital in protecting the body with antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Here are two of my favorite oxidative stress busting and health building supplements:
Digital Detox Challenge
The very best way to protect yourself is to learn to put down those devices! My challenge to you is to commit to a Digital Detox this week! Here are some of my top tips for protecting your health, preventing premature aging and learning to put down those phones more often.
- Put your phone on airplane mode while you sleep. This is super important. Putting your phone in airplane mode eliminates EMF exposure from your phone. For extra credit, don’t even bring your phone into your bedroom! If you have children or a spouse who might need to call you at night, invest in a landline.
- Wait at least one hour after waking to look at your phone – no emails or browsing social to start your day. Instead of jumping on your device, start your day with meditation, prayer, stretching, yoga or Sun Salutations.
- Put your phone on airplane mode during meals and do not bring it to the table. Meals are a time to connect with loved ones and to nourish your body. Focus on that, and be present and mindful.
- No devices 1-2 hours before bed. This gives your body a break from EMFs and blue light and can allow you to drift more peacefully into a more productive sleep session
- Spend time with loved ones, read a book, or go for a walk instead of staring at the screen. Be present in your own life!
So tell me, will you be taking part in my Digital Detox Challenge? Give it a try this week, and make a commitment to yourself, and your health, to make this a daily habit.
Leave me a comment below to let me know you’re in, or how your Digital Detox went!