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Do You Need A Digital Detox?

In the year 2020, we are connected to technology more than ever. For many of us, our smartphones are the first thing we use in the morning and the last thing we see before falling asleep at night. While these devices have made our lives easier and give us extensive knowledge via the internet, they also make us less available to the world around us. Overuse of technology can cause a wide variety of problems, including antisocial behaviors, lack of sleep, anxiety, stress, depression, and addiction. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time for a digital detox, and we are here to help!

According to TechJury.net, there are 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide. That is more than the entire population of the United States, China, and India combined! Smartphones give us access to the internet, GPS turn-by-turn directions, the ability to take high-definition photos and videos, play games, manage your bank account, pay your bills, do your taxes, and of course, make phone calls. So what is the result of having this many people connected to advanced technology that fits in your pocket?

 27% percent of people in a Consumer Reports survey of 4,023 U.S. adults said they had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights, and 68 percent, or an estimated 164 million Americans, struggled with sleep at least once a week. What could be the cause of all these sleepless nights? The answer to that question may be in your hand right now.

The National Sleep Foundation states that 71% of smartphone users sleep either holding their smartphone, having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand. This is partially due to the handy alarm clock feature, but mostly because of our addiction to these devices. It can be incredibly distracting trying to sleep or stay asleep, with an endless river of Facebook notifications, tweets, and YouTube uploads in the palm of our hand or on our nightstand. Even those who use "Do Not Disturb" or "Airplane Mode" can still feel the effects of their smartphones at night. 

Just using these devices before bed affects how we are going to sleep that night. Smartphones, laptops, and televisions all emit blue light, a type of light that the brain interprets as daylight. This light suppresses the hormone melatonin, which affects circadian rhythm and should increase when you are preparing for bedtime. This makes our brains feel stimulated like they would during the day. So when we use our smartphones at night, they make our brains think it is daytime, making it harder to fall asleep. 

A technology curfew may be the best way to fight these sleep issues. Ending screen uses an hour before bed every night, using an alarm clock in the bedroom, and keeping our phones off and out of the room are great ways to limit our interactions with technology in the evening. These are simple actions that can go a long way in helping you get a full night's sleep. 

Sleep isn't the only health issue that smartphones cause. In a study of 346 people, ages 18-20, researchers found that smartphone dependency predicts higher reports of depressive symptoms and loneliness. Another study found that the positive correlation between smartphone addiction and depression is alarming. Therefore, reasonable usage of smartphones is advised, especially among younger adults who could be at higher risk of depression. This is more evidence we should be paying attention to how much time we spend on our devices and how they can shape the way we think and feel.

Sadly, the digital dangers of smartphones don't end there. These devices could be getting in the way of our relationships and how we interact with our loved ones. Most of us have been part of a conversation where the other person pulled out their phone and started scrolling. Not only is this a sign of smartphone addiction, but it is contributing to the development of ADHD in many people. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this addiction to smartphones is making us increasingly distracted and hyperactive.

Researchers measured inattentiveness and hyperactivity by asking participants to identify how often they had experienced 18 symptoms of ADHD over two weeks. These items were based on the criteria for diagnosing ADHD in adults as specified by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The results showed that more frequent phone interruptions made people less attentive and more hyperactive.

A great way to solve this issue is to use the "Airplane Mode" feature when you are out with friends, at family get-togethers, at the park with your kids, driving, or doing anything that should have our full attention. This will keep your attention on what's important, the interacts with your loved ones and the world around you, not the latest tweet. 

The take away from all this should be the realization that technology, like smartphones, can be the cause behind many of the problems we are facing as a society. While they can connect us to people all around the world, they also seem to disconnect us from the people around us. Giving rise to inattentiveness, social withdraw, sleeplessness, and even depression. If you have been experiencing these problems or just becoming aware of them now, it may be time for your digital detox. 

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