Staring at a Screen Causes Weight Gain. Here's How.

One habit that I would absolutely love to change is my nightly routine of scrolling through timelines on my cell phone until I drift off to sleep.  And, every so often, I wake up and immediately grab my phone and catch up on what I missed during slumber.  When I do this, I'm guaranteed to stay up another 2-3 hours before dozing off again.   Even if I total 8 hours of sleep, I still don't feel as rested as I could because of the interruption.

I've heard a few sound bites here and there that we shouldn't check our phones before bed but I never quite listened.  I never paid much attention because I didn't fully understand why this habit was so damaging.  I'm one of those people who are motivated by avoiding negative consequences. Now that I have a better understanding of why screen light is so damaging, I'm fully committed to adjusting my behavior accordingly.

If you care about managing your weight, getting enough beauty sleep, and achieving optimal health, you definitely want to keep reading.
I've only researched this topic for a couple of days so I may have only scratched the surface.  But based on what I've learned so far, artificial blue light is absolutely contrary to a healthy lifestyle.  Inherently, blue light isn't a bad thing.  We actually are exposed to blue light when we're out in the sun.  Blue light sends a signal to our bodies that it's daylight.  You can imagine the havoc this can cause when it's actually 11:00 pm at night but we're sending the body a signal that it's the middle of the day.

This will have a dire impact on our ability to fall asleep. Not just because the light is bright, but blue light is actually messing with our internal body clock.   Because of the effect on our natural rhythm, our body isn't able to release proper levels of melatonin.

My husband is rarely on his cell phone.  If he watches a movie before bed, he often does it in a dark room. Once it's time for him to go to bed, he has absolutely no problem falling asleep.  I, on the other hand, am often on my phone or laptop.  When I go to bed, I bring one or both of the items with me.  He'll make a one-off comment that my phone light bothers him which I often ignore.  To me, the phone was my way of "unwinding" little did I know that I was doing the exact opposite.

Sleep is precious.  Because we do it every night, we sometimes forget the immense importance of getting deep restful sleep each night.  I heard from a neurosurgeon once that our brain actually detoxes itself during sound sleep.  That's serious stuff.  Not to mention all of the other beneficial processes like muscle repair, improved memory, reduced inflammation, less stress, etc.  I didn't even go into the wonderful skin enhancing benefits of sleep.  For instance, did you know that our skin rebalances its hydration levels while we sleep?  Whenever I dealt with hyperactive acne, I could almost guarantee that my sleep was off.  No beauty routine is complete without a well-maintained sleep schedule.

Blue light isn't only impacting us before bed.  When I stare at my laptop, check my phone or turn on an LED light in the house, I'm exposed to artificial blue light.  You might be asking yourself, isn't blue light exposure during the daytime ok?  I wish it was ok but unfortunately, artificial light impacts us both day and night.  One unwanted side effect of artificial blue light exposure is weight gain.

Yes, weight gain.

When I first heard this, I questioned how a light can impact our weight.  The answer to this riddle is found in our hormones.  Weight gain isn't as simple as the "calorie in vs. calorie out" theory that we've all been exposed to.  Basically, what truly impacts our fat storing potential is our insulin sensitivity.  Any time we eat, insulin is released into the blood.  Insulin signals the body to store fat.  If we eat too frequently or if we regularly consume high glycemic foods, our bodies become insulin resistant. When this happens, it won't be long before we start packing on the pounds.  Basically, our blood sugar levels become too high.  To help balance this, our body stores the excess energy in our fat cells.

Before recently, I assumed that insulin was only impacted by what I ate.  You could imagine my surprise when I learned that exposure to artificial blue light impacts our insulin resistance, metabolism and ultimately, our weight.  So, basically, when I spend my last waking hours of the evening in front of a screen, I'm impacting my body's metabolism.  Eating in front of a screen is even worse.  Eating dinner while exposed to blue light before heading to bed is a recipe for weight gain.  This is also true when we reach for our phone first thing in the morning.

What's a girl to do?

I have a few changes that I'll be implementing asap to manage my constant exposure to blue light.  These include:
  • Purchasing a blue light protector for my cell phone & laptop screen.
  • Working on my laptop outdoors or in natural light when possible.  (Sunlight includes both red + blue light.  This balances the light exposure so you aren't consuming blue light alone).
  • Eating away from a screen.  They say that we eat more while mindlessly surfing online so this can really help impact our weight and metabolism.
  • Instead of scrolling before bed, Maybe I'll do some meditation, journaling or light stretching.  Something that doesn't require me to look at the screen. 
  • Spend less time indoors in a blue light environment.  I'm home for most of the day and I can function pretty well via natural light. I'll avoid turning on lights unless it's necessary.
  • They also sell glasses that block blue light. I may give them a try to see if they help with my eye strain.
I've been more conscious about maintaining a healthy lifestyle but one area of concern was around my eyes.  I've been feeling the effects of eye fatigue and was convinced that this would come back to bite me in the long run.  I don't wear glasses so I know that my eye fatigue is directly related to holding a screen up to my face all the time.  

Honestly, I would love to become less addicted to my phone.  Altering my habit will lead to higher productivity and a better feeling of well being.  Quitting cold turkey may be a difficult task but because I'm aware of the benefits and negative impacts of my behavior, I'm willing to do what it takes. 

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  1. I'm a follower from South Africa. I learned about this while I was on a 90 day weight loss journey with the support group called sleekgeek.co.za. I was at awe of how much my skin improved and weight just melted off when I spent less time on my phone. I also love your explanation on insulin resistance. The world really needs to move away from that calorie in vs calorie out mentality. It has been proven more these days that it is not exactly correct. Lovely post as always

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