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Technology’s Toll On Health And Performance

We all love technology. Cell phones, computers, tablets, video games, streaming media, Fitbits, Apple watches, Google Glass, smartboards, Siri – the list could go on and on. Unless you’re living under a rock in the middle of nowhere (can you even find “nowhere” these days?), you’re probably interacting with technology on a regular basis, either by choice or necessity… and you might even like it. After all, why would you want to drive to the library, scour through a card catalog, search endlessly for the right book, and take handwritten notes for your research paper, when you could just go into the other room, jump on the Internet, type in a few words, have thousands of resources at your fingertips, and copy and paste the information you want to save for later? Technology saves us time, gives us access to things, experiences, and opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have, and helps us solve world problems. Technology makes us smarter (or at least it can seem that way – ask Siri!), entertains us (thank you Netflix), and keeps us connected in our business and our personal lives (call me anytime, email me, Skype me, ping me, friend me, add me, follow me… yikes! Maybe just leave me alone sometimes). Technology is great, right? Technology makes us more efficient, right? Technology makes our lives easier…right?

Mostly, yes. But, the constant barrage of technology is taking its toll on even the heartiest of human beings. In the United States, people spend an average 7.4 hours every day looking at screens – TV, computer, smartphone, tablet. All that screen time is leaving its mark on our health and well-being. From newly coined medical conditions (i.e., computer vision syndrome) to insomnia, carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, hearing loss, and anxiety – being surrounded by technology may not be as great as it’s cracked up to be. And that’s just for the average Joe. What if you happen to be one of the 840 million people in this world who suffers from Irlen Syndrome, a condition where bright and fluorescent lighting, high contrast, glare, and reading off screens and pages with bright white backgrounds creates a host of symptoms ranging from physical discomfort like headaches, eyestrain, and fatigue to reading difficulties and other academic challenges. For people with Irlen Syndrome, today’s high tech world can pose even bigger challenges to both health and productivity. Backlit LED screens used for computers, tablets, phones and TVs can be unbearable to look at, create unnecessary strain and fatigue, and cause headaches, migraines, and nausea. And screens are EVERYWHERE! Our kids spend hours staring at screens at school and at home. The old, green chalkboard has been replaced by interactive whiteboards (also known as smartboards). Textbooks are being replaced by tablets. Assignments are being completed on the computer. Couple all that with the push towards energy-efficient lighting that has fluorescent and LED lighting not just surrounding us in schools and at work, but also in our homes in many cases. It becomes a toxic environment for someone with Irlen Syndrome, and there’s nowhere to escape.

Unfortunately, all that screen time doesn’t just make us physically sick or uncomfortable, it can also affect our productivity. Doing work on a computer or tablet can actually decrease productivity for people with Irlen Syndrome because it makes it more difficult to see, attend to, and comprehend the information being presented. It can impact how long we’re able to focus and attend, and how often we need to stop, look away from the screen, and take a break. This can be pretty inefficient. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make your screen time less painful and more productive.

  1. Colored Overlays and Clings(TM): Many people find relief through the use of colored overlays placed directly over the screen to reduce contrast and glare and improve print clarity and stability. Get Overlays and Clings(TM) here.
  2. Colored Overlay App for Android Phones and Tablets: This app allows you to select from 10 Irlen® Overlay colors, or create your own custom color, and then apply your color to the screen of your device. Your chosen color will overlay your screen no matter what other application you are using, reducing eyestrain and discomfort whenever you are using your device. Get the App.
  3. Turn Off Fluorescent Lights: Natural, dim and incandescent lighting can all cause less discomfort than working under fluorescent lights for individuals with Irlen Syndrome.
  4. Change Background Color on Smartboards: Using an alternative background colors like grey or beige can make it easier for students to read off of a whiteboard or smartboard at the front of the class.
  5. Dim It Down: If all else fails, try dimming down your screen.

If you get headaches, eye-strain, fatigue, or feel ill after a day on the computer, you’re not alone. Below are some signs that Irlen Syndrome might be the culprit making it extra-uncomfortable for you to use technology!

  • Bothered by the brightness of the screen or white background
  • Bothered by glare off the screen
  • Difficulty reading or comprhending what you read
  • Need to take breaks often
  • Blink or squint
  • Prefer dim lighting

To find out more about Irlen Syndrome and available solutions, visit: www.irlen.com