Is Your Phone Affecting Your Health?Brain-Healthy Ways to Interact With Your Smartphone

by Colorado Integrative Neurology

Are you smartphone dependent? A recent Pew Research study showed that one in five American adults can be described this way, meaning they only have a smartphone, not a traditional home broadband service. Meanwhile, 77 percent of Americans owned smartphones as of early 2018, up from 35 percent in 2011. With stats like that, it’s not surprising that we see more and more people with physical and mental side effects from smartphone use. 

Cellphones are a necessary part of modern life. Many people rely on them for work, life, travel, research, relationships, and more.

In many ways, this is a good thing. Smartphones make people’s lives easier and make it possible for them to connect instantly, no matter where they are. But as with many other things in life, too much of a good thing can be detrimental to your health.

Here are some of the adverse effects that come from too much smartphone use, and what you can do to combat them.

How Smartphones Affect Your Health

Physically, smartphones can cause several issues.

Many of these fall under what is called “computer vision syndrome,” or digital eye strain. This sort of eye strain causes headaches, blurred vision, neck and shoulder pain.

But staring at a screen for too long affects more than your eyes. It also affects your brain, creating a reaction called “midbrain windup.” This can lead to headaches, migraines, light and sound sensitivity, neck pain, and muscle twitches and spasms.

This reaction takes its toll on your mental health, as well. Midbrain windup can cause irritability, a racing mind, insomnia and other sleep disturbances.

In addition, studies have shown a possible correlation between screen use and mental health issues. Perhaps due to social media, people who spend a lot of time on their smartphones do find themselves at a higher risk for depression and anxiety.

If you experience any of these symptoms, or if you’re just worried about your dependence on your phone, there are some steps you can take.

How You Can Combat Smartphone Side Effects

For most people, it isn’t an option to entirely stop cellphone use. Refusing to have a cellphone could be seen as odd at best, or unprofessional at worst. So instead of cutting cellphone use out of your life entirely, learn how to minimize the damage.

  • Hold the phone up and away from your face so you don’t tilt your neck down to look at it.
  • Use a tool that will hold your phone for you. (Here is just one example.)
  • Turn on “night mode” to decrease screen brightness and decrease blue light exposure (which contributes to midbrain windup).
  • Turn off notifications that aren’t completely necessary so you aren’t alerted to look at your phone so often.
  • Instead of keeping your phone by your bed at night, put it in another room. This will help you avoid scrolling through social media or checking email. The blue light from the screen makes your brain more active when it should be calming down for the night.
  • If you read before you go to sleep, opt for a physical book instead of an e-reader. There are several benefits to reading this way overall, in addition to the fact that it won’t over-stimulate your brain before sleep the way a backlit screen will.

Of course the best thing you can do for yourself is to limit the amount of time you spend on your phone. Take breaks every once in awhile, put your phone on “do not disturb” or take weekend days where you totally disconnect. If you’re the kind of person who finds yourself glancing at your screen every five seconds, these tactics can help break you of that habit.

Your smartphone is likely an important part of your life but it’s imperative that you have a healthy relationship with it. If you find that you have some of the symptoms described above, contact Colorado Integrative Neurology by requesting an appointment online or calling the office at 720-328-5076. Dr. Shawn VanWinkle will meet with you for a free Discovery Session so you can gain a clear understanding of how he can help you find harmony in life with a smartphone.

Copyright © 2018 Colorado Integrative Neurology. All Rights Reserved. Shawn VanWinkle, D.C., D.A.C.N.B. is a Doctor at Colorado Integrative Neurology. To learn more about how we can help you with your health goals visit our website at or email us at A free initial consultation can be scheduled by calling our office at (720) 328-5076.