Brain Booster: Power Down Your Devices

Every buzz could be the day’s most important message, so we stay logged in from wakeup to what should be bedtime. Take this simple “yes” or “no” quiz to test your connectivity:

• Are you regularly in front of more than one screen simultaneously?
• Does time on social media sometimes leave you feeling worse?
• More than once a week, are your eyes sore?
• Do you regularly fall asleep with a screen on?
• On your last weeklong vacation, did you check work email more than once a day?

Nodding yes? You’re not alone, yet here are answers to why unplugging is so important:
• Nearly 90 percent of people have more than one screen on at one time. Splitting attention between devices may seem like multitasking, but it actually dilutes attention and weakens our brains. Multitaskers perform worse on tasks than those who focus on one task at a time.
• Social media has its values, but it also leaves one in three people jealous, lonely and experiencing “fear of missing out” anxiety.
• Too much screen time strains eyes, causing dryness, irritation and blurred vision. If you regularly have sore eyes, see your health care provider for diagnosis and relief.
• Blue light from screens suppresses melatonin (a sleep hormone). Plus, not getting the right amounts of proper sleep leads to poor performance and other health risks.
• A study shows that 42 percent of employees feel obligated to check their email during vacation. Yet not taking vacation increases your risks of heart disease (and you know the other powerful values of truly taking a vacation).

Make it work
Take your “out of office” seriously. Before a vacation, assign a backup for your outstanding projects, make notes and brief him or her on details that may arise while you are away. If you must, check your email inbox by subject lines once every two days: Don’t open every one. Do not respond to emails unless it absolutely cannot wait or cannot be handled by your backup.

Tips to power down
To fully rest your brain while also staying connected:
• Focus on one screen at a time at home and as much as possible at work.
• Limit time on social media; aim for 30 minutes or less a day.
• Start and end your days without a screen. Try the first and last hour of your day without any screens.
• Keep screens out of your bedroom.
• Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, aiming for at least seven hours of sleep (with no screens on for at least eight).

Power up
Use the time previously spent in front of screen(s) for these brain-boosting activities:
• Go for a walk (without your cell phone).
• Get outside, since fresh air and vitamin D improve your mood and immunity.
• Interact with real people, face-to-face, from a work lunch without cell phones to family game nights or powered-down weekends.

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health
National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Sleep Foundation

Lonna Whiting is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.