In a world of smartphones, tablets, computers and dozens of cable channels, it has become almost impossible to avoid screens. But if you’re in the recovery phase from a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI), staying away from screens can be one of the best things you can do for your health.
How to safely reintroduce screen time
After you have a concussion or TBI, one of the most common complaints is sensitivity to light. Avoiding sunlight is fairly easy to do by staying indoors and wearing good sunglasses when you go outside, but staying away from screens can be much harder.
Unfortunately, the blue light from smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs can all aggravate your symptoms and make the underlying condition worse.
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As Richmond Children’s Hospital explains“Blue light is a type of visible light that can be found all around us. Blue light is emitted by LED lamps, fluorescent lamps, as well as computers, TVs and mobile phone screens. Blue light can be problematic for light-sensitive individuals and can make symptoms worse after a concussion.”
In theory, avoiding screens may sound simple. But in reality, it is a major challenge in the digital age. Work, entertainment and communication all rely heavily on screens.
If you don’t have a plan for how you will reintroduce screens into your daily life after your concussion or brain injury, you may inadvertently prolong your recovery process. And if you’re involved in a hanging lawsuit or insurance claim, this could delay or jeopardize your case.
With all this in mind, here are some tips you can use to make sure your technology use doesn’t hinder your recovery.
1. Screen Time Phase
After your concussion or TBI, you should gradually build in screen time. You want to be completely away from screens for at least 24 to 72 hours. Use this period for rest and focus on stabilization.
After the 24- to 72-hour period has passed (or when your doctor gives you permission), it’s good to reduce screen time incrementally. Start with five minutes, then 10, then 15.
Once you can consistently enjoy multiple 15-minute increments per day with no negative consequences, you can scale up in 15-minute increments…although you should limit your screen time to 60-minute segments for at least the first 30 days.
2. Avoid LCD screens
The type of screen you’re looking at is critical. Pay close attention to this detail as you reintegrate devices into your life.
Liquid crystal displays (LCDs), for example, are found in many older TVs, smartphones and tablets and can cause problems.
“The light bulbs that illuminate LCD screens refresh or ‘flicker’ at a rate invisible to the naked eye, but still picked up by the brain,” explains Children’s Hospital of Richmond. “This effect of the strobe light may cause symptoms to increase during use.”
You may be wondering what other options there are. LED and OLED are the most common. You’ll find them on newer TVs, smartphones, and tablets.
3. Dim the screen brightness
In addition to selecting the right screen, pay close attention to the screen brightness settings. Most are set much brighter than necessary.
You can turn them back a few notches and reduce the amount of exposure. Screen brightness is especially important in a dark room.
Looking at a bright screen for long periods of time in dimly lit rooms can increase your chances of getting eyestrain (whether or not you’ve suffered a concussion). Familiarize yourself with the device settings and adjust them if necessary.
4. Limit Screen Time Before Bedtime
Exposing yourself to screens right before bed is a bad idea for several reasons. First, it increases your chance of eye strain (for the reason discussed above).
Second, exposure to blue light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, making it more hard to fall asleep and keep calm. Because sleep is such an essential part of recovery, too much screen time at night can have a direct negative effect on the healing process.
It’s just not worth it!
It’s not realistic to avoid screens 100 percent of your daily life. But by planning ahead and taking into account screen type, timing, brightness and other factors, you will dramatically reduce negative symptoms and give yourself the opportunity to recover more quickly.