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How Does Your Screen Time Affect Your Physical Health?

by guestpost
14 minutes read

To be clear, using your phone/computer doesn’t inherently affect your physical health. Overusing it does. I think it’s crucial to make that distinction early on.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s see the potential risks of excessive screen time.

1. Sleep Deprivation

Have you ever decided to watch a few Instagram reels before sleeping and didn’t stop until you suddenly realized it was 3 a.m. already? We’ve all been there. Why do our phones keep us awake at night, though?

Blue Light

When the light-sensitive tissues in your eyes sense it’s getting dark, they send signals to the pineal gland in your brain, prompting it to produce melatonin. That hormone puts you in a tranquil state, which helps you sleep faster.

However, the blue light coming from your phone/computer suppresses the production of melatonin. Not only does that make you less sleepy, but it also disturbs your sleep-wake cycle.

A 2015 study compares the sleeping patterns of people who read printed books before sleeping to those who read ebooks. It showed that patients who read ebooks took longer to fall asleep and struggled to stay awake the following morning.

I guess our parents had a point when they prohibited us from using our phones before bed.

Interactive Content

Here’s the thing: It’s not just about the blue light coming from your phone. The type of content you consume can also impact your sleeping patterns.

Passive content like TV shows, YouTube clips, and music have less impact on your sleep than interactive content. Texting, video calling, and playing video games, especially violent ones, keep you more engaged and make it harder to fall asleep. 

2. Eye Strain

You probably saw this one coming. I can dedicate an entire article to the effects of excessive screen time on your eyes, but I’ll try to make it brief.

The blue light that digital devices emit doesn’t just disrupt your sleep. It leads to computer vision syndrome (CVS), a series of eye problems resulting from prolonged usage of phones/computers.

Common symptoms include eye soreness, headaches, and nausea. Most importantly, though, you might experience dry eyes.

Dry Eyes

Tears aren’t merely a manifestation of sadness. They have a vital biological rule: Cleaning your eyes from dust/debris and protecting them from dangerous microorganisms.

Well, excessive screen time prevents your eyes from producing enough tears, exposing them to potential infections, inflammation, and cornea damage.


Many believe that genetics is the primary cause of myopia. While that’s true, some can develop it by overusing their digital screens.

Myopia is a common condition where nearby items appear in focus, but distant objects look blurry.

It usually occurs if your eyeball is too long or your cornea is too curved. That prevents light rays from bending properly. So, they reside in front of the retina rather than on it, causing these blurry visions.

So, what does screen time have to do with this? Unless you’re a caveman, you probably keep your phone close to your face when you’re using it. Well, focusing on near objects for extended periods of time elongates your eyeballs, prompting myopia.

Researchers conducted a study in 2020 on the relationship between myopia and screen time. It showed that myopic students consume almost twice as much smartphone data as non-myopic students.

Another 2021 study shows that excessive use of phones and computers increases the risk of myopia by 80%. So, you might want to put your phone down every once in a while.

3. Unhealthy Weight Gain

You probably don’t watch TikTok videos or play video games while running on the treadmill. You’re either sitting in a bed, couch, or chair. That’s the problem.

With excessive screen time, you sit still most of the day, which promotes unhealthy weight gain. Besides, TV shows and YouTube videos often feature food commercials that include junk food, sweet cereals, and unhealthy snacks.

These ads can increase your appetite, leading you to consume more snacks and increasing the risk of weight gain.

Sleep Deprivation Weight Gain  

As I’ve already established, excessive screen time is associated with sleep deprivation. What most people don’t know is that poor-quality sleep can lead to weight gain. A recent study shows that people who sleep less tend to consume more calories.

Researchers focused on patients who sleep less than 6.5 hours per day and split them into two groups. One received counseling to improve their sleeping habits, while the other maintained the same abnormal schedule.

The results? Members of the extended-sleep group consumed 270 fewer calories and lost weight efficiently. On the other hand, members of the abnormal sleep group gained more weight throughout the experiment.

I know what you’re thinking: “How does sleep affect weight management?” Sleep deprivation prompts the production of the ghrelin hormone, which is also called that hunger hormone because it increases your appetite.

It also reduces the production of the leptin hormone in your body, which suppresses your appetite. So, when you use your phone too long, you consume more calories and take longer to feel full.

4. Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common diseases associated with excessive screen time. Let’s see what the potential risks might be.

Wrist/Finger Pain

When you hold your phone, you probably use your thumb to scroll up and down or react to posts on your timeline. Maybe you add the index when you want to zoom, but it’s mostly the thumb.

The repetitive motion of scrolling puts too much strain on that finger. Eventually, it’ll hurt. Typing on a keyboard isn’t any better, as it stiffens the wrist. It doesn’t necessarily cause carpal tunnel, but it can increase the chances of developing it.

Neck-Back Pain

Whether you’re using your phone, laptop, or tablet, chances are you’re lowering your neck to look at the screen. That posture will put too much pressure on your neck in the long run, potentially causing cervical osteoarthritis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and more. 

Your neck isn’t the only part affected by your posture. Most people tend to hunch over the screen when they’re using laptops, which prompts back issues.

A recent study covered the effects of using computers daily on 102 secondary school students. 44.1% of these students had used their computers and phones for over five years.

The study showed that 60.7% of them had constant neck pain, while the remaining 39.3% experienced it occasionally.

How to Alleviate the Side Effects of Excessive Screen Time?

So, what can you do if you face any of the previous side effects? Should you give up and settle for a lifetime of neck pain and poor-quality sleep? Of course not!

Combating these effects won’t be easy, and It’ll take a while to see proper results, but I can show you where to start.

Install a Humidifier

It sounds like too simple a solution, but you’d be surprised how effective it is. Humidifiers increase the humidity of your room, helping your eyes stay moist and alleviating the symptoms of dry eyes.

It’s worth noting that this solution doesn’t work for everyone. So, if your symptoms don’t improve after a while, you should see a doctor.


This one’s a no-brainer. Exercising is the most efficient way to combat neck and back pain. It doesn’t have to be extensive training. You can start by standing up and walking around for five minutes every 30 minutes.

If you want to step it up, try doing the hand-to-ear stretch or the cobra pose. These exercises help relieve the pressure on your neck and back.

How to Prevent the Harmful Effects of Excessive Screen Time?

The answer is simple: Don’t spend too much time on your phone/computer. I can tell you to limit your screen time to one or two hours a day, but I know it’s easier said than done.

So, I want to offer a few practical tips to help you avoid potential physical issues.

Buy a Reclining Chair

Many believe sitting at a 90-degree angle is the right way to go. That’s a common misconception. Sitting at a reclined angle relieves pressure off your back, reducing the risk of back pain. Although researchers believe a 135-degree angle is perfect, you can choose any angle that works for you.

Follow the 20-20-20 Rule

The 20-20-20 method aims to prevent eye soreness. It works like this: Every 20 minutes of using your screen, take a 20-second break and look at an object 20 feet away.

I know judging the distance of an object can be difficult, but you don’t have to stick to 20 feet. Focusing on any distant item works just as well.

You might be skeptical about how effective this method is, so maybe this 2013 study can convince you. It showed that between 795 Malaysian students with CVS, those who focused on distant objects in between work showed fewer symptoms.

Take a Break

I don’t mean a 30-minute. Take a day off your computer. Maybe go out with your friends, attend a workshop, or plan a picnic with your family. The idea here is to replace the time you spend on your screen with another activity that keeps you engaged.

Wrapping Up

Now you understand the physical health risks of excessive screen time. While using your phone isn’t inherently harmful, excessive usage can prompt sleep deprivation, eye soreness, weight gain, and more.

So, you want to indulge in other activities that take your mind off your phone. It’ll be a tedious process, filled with trial and error, but it’ll be worth it.


Marwan Mansour is a health and wellness writer who specializes in fitness, nutrition, holistic health, and more. He enjoys being creative and staying healthy while doing it. That’s why he wants to convey the nuances of the health and wellness world with witty, science-backed writing.

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