Is Your Smartphone Really Making You Near-Sighted?

Photo credit: bigstock.com

Photo credit: bigstock.com

Why is the increase in myopia happening?

Research has indicated that there is a correlation between the increased use of electronic devices with screens and the rise of near-sightedness.

Prior to the rise of the internet, it was common for people to only spend an hour or so a day looking at screens up close, whether it was research in a library or in a computer class. But as internet speeds increased, so did the daily amount of screen time. Fast forward to the present, and the average person spends three or more hours a day looking at an an electronic screen, be it a laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

There are a number of factors suggesting a link between this increased use of screens and computers. First, there is the issue of the physical distance between the screen and the eye.

The human changes shape slightly depending on whether you’re focusing on an object in the foreground or off in the distance. Most people only have their laptop screen about 12 to 16 inches away from their eyes. With smartphones and tablets, the distance is even less. If you’re constantly focusing on something only a few inches away from you, your vision can become altered, and your ability to clearly see things in the distance is reduced.

This raises the question about whether it is specifically screen viewing or simply focusing on any nearby objects that contributes to myopia.

If one was to spend hours and hours focusing on objects only a few inches away, it would make sense that near-sightedness would occur regardless of whether it was a screen or something non-electronic, like a book — perhaps this is where the stereotype of bookworms wearing glasses comes from. But there are factors unique to screen exposure that must be taken into account here.

People tend to blink less often when staring at a screen versus performing other tasks. This causes eye strain and increased dryness. Taken on its own, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But if this is happening chronically, day in and day out, the cumulative effect can take a toll on one’s vision.

There is also the type of light displayed on a screen. Most electronic screens emit light from the whole visible light spectrum, including blue light. Blue light in particular can cause damage to the retina in a manner similar to UV light. There is also the fact that in nature, humans are only exposed to blue light during daylight hours. With electronic devices that can be used at any time of day or night, people are exposing themselves to blue light at inappropriate times.

Blue light, whether natural or artificial, causes the brain to think it is daytime. So when you lay in bed using your smartphone, you’re essentially tricking your brain into thinking that it is the middle of the day. This has been linked to difficulties falling asleep.

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