Power up your health by powering down your phone on weekends

By Dr Tara Swart

In today’s extremely frenetic work environment, some reports say that we check our phones up to 85 times or more a day. This means our brains have to process a vast amount of information on an hourly basis. How can we ensure that we look after our brain health in this demanding context? People should look after their brain’s health to enhance their performance. Our brains aren’t programmed to be ”switched on” all the time, so a digital detox can be a good way of giving your brain a rest and reducing stress levels. A digital detox can boost creativity and ensure quality time with family and friends.

A digital detox helps…

IMPROVE SLEEP AND REST FOR THE BRAIN

Using a phone or device in bed or just before sleep affects the quality of sleep.

Melatonin – the hormone that helps regulate sleep – is released by the pineal gland into the bloodstream. The blue light that phone and laptop screens emit confuses the gland because darkness is what triggers it to start working.

Long-term lack of sleep also increases chances of developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s, because our brain’s glymphatic system removes toxins from the brain while we sleep.

SOCIAL BONDING/SPENDING TIME WITH FAMILY

Oxytocin, the “bonding hormone” – released into the blood via the pituitary gland during times of trust and bonding – is likely to be more in abundance when people can communicate and interact freely over a shared experience and through physical contact. Putting down devices and spending time interacting with family can help to increase levels of oxytocin, which improves communication and trust.

COMBATING STRESS

We generally feel under constant pressure to respond to e-mails and messages immediately. Being aware of e-mails coming into your inbox can cause stress and an increase in levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Some studies have even suggested that knowledge of unread e-mails in your inbox can reduce your effective IQ. Our brains aren’t good at multitasking, so having to constantly overlap work and leisure by, for example, responding to e-mails at the weekend, can tire us out mentally. It’s important that we use our weekends and holidays to give our brains time and space to recharge and relax.

A digital detox at the weekend can be the first step towards achieving this.

 

Dr Tara Swart, is a renowned neuroscientist, leadership coach and medical doctor. 

This article was originally published in the Times.