Are You Suffering From Digital Drain?

You won't believe how many times the average American checks their phone each day.

May 20, 2015
checking phone at night
ljubaphoto/Getty Images

There's no question that personal technology has made many aspects of our lives easier and more convenient—but this development comes with a cost: Living in a wired world that never fully shuts down contributes to stress.

It's not just the 24/7 aspect of being constantly accessible by cellphone, e-mail, and the like that's stressful, though that alone would be enough.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The constant exposure to the light on these devices stimulates brain activity, which is why checking your cell phone before bed can make it harder to doze off. Any electronic gadget's artificial blue light can suppress release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. There's also the ever-present threat of the device ringing or dinging. A 2011 poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 20 percent of people ages 19 to 29 are awakened by a call, text, or e-mail at least a few nights a week. (Are you making these 10 other sleep mistakes?)

More: Are iPads Safe?

Take this as a lesson: Be sure to power these gadgets down well before bedtime!

In addition, working on a laptop or a heavy handheld device for long periods of time can cause neck stiffness, headache, and fatigue. And checking your phone often may contribute to mental drain. Research suggests the average smartphone user checks her phone every 6½ minutes, which adds up to approximately 150 times per day. Meanwhile, a 2012 study by McKinsey & Company found that high-skill knowledge workers spend 28 percent of their time reading and answering e-mail. Besides being disruptive, the frequent ping of e-mails landing in our inboxes is stressful and distracting. 

A psychiatrist I know suggests people put down all electronic devices for a period of time every 2 hours to give themselves a mental break from all this tech stress. This includes walking away from your computer for even a brief period throughout the workday. My recommendation is to also take regular e-mail vacations—by silencing or deactivating your mobile e-mail account for at least a few hours after work.

Taking steps to protect yourself from digital drain will pay off mentally and physically.

Adapted from The Exhaustion Breakthrough