5 smartphone and screen time tricks to reduce migraines
Migraines can be incredibly debilitating. For some people, the pain is so intense that it becomes difficult to do anything but lie in a dark room until the attack passes.
Several factors can trigger or worsen migraine attacks, but if you’ve noticed that prolonged use of your smartphone often leads to migraine attacks, you might want to consider making a few changes.
So what is the connection between smartphones and migraines, and what can you do about it?
How Mobile Phones Can Cause Migraines
Several studies have found links between cell phone use (or prolonged screen exposure in general) and migraines, such as this study on headache. However, the jury is still out on why that might be the case.
There are, however, a few theories that offer some explanation:
- Blue light emitted from smartphone screens can disrupt your sleep, a common migraine trigger.
- Prolonged smartphone use can lead to eye strain, a well-known migraine trigger.
- Using smartphones for long periods of time can also lead to text neck (tilting your head down and slouching your back to look at your screen), another common migraine trigger.
Additionally, this study from the American Academy of Neurology demonstrates that patients with primary headaches who use their phones for long periods of time are more likely to take more medication, but experience less relief.
Although the research is still inconclusive, it seems clear that there is a link between smartphone use and migraines. If you find that your migraines are getting worse after using your phone for long periods of time, it might be time to make some changes.
5 changes you can make to reduce your risk of migraines
Your beloved pocket mate can trigger or worsen migraine attacks. Here are some tips to help mitigate the risk.
1. Adjust your screen brightness
Light from your smartphone and your surroundings can cause eye strain, which occurs when your eyes get tired from overuse, especially after activities that require you to focus on something for long periods of time. This can make migraines worse or trigger an attack.
To avoid eye strain from screens, you’ll want to balance the brightness of your screen with that of your surroundings. For example, if you’re in a dark room, you might want to turn down the brightness on your phone. Make a habit of adjusting your phone’s brightness throughout the day to get the most comfortable viewing experience and ensure your eyes don’t get overworked.
In addition to that, use the 20-20-20 rule to avoid staring at your screen for long periods of time. The rule is: every time you spend 20 minutes staring at a screen, choose something else that’s up to 20 feet away and stare at it for 20 seconds.
2. Enable Blue Light Filters
There’s something so appealing about using your phone in bed before you fall asleep. And even though you may know that the blue light emitted by your screens can disrupt sleep, you still continue to do so. This could be a major contributing factor to your migraines.
Assuming you choose not to give up your smartphone habit before bedtime (we get it, it’s hard), there are some settings you can play around with to minimize the impact of blue light on your sleep.
Many phones come with a blue light filter option that you can turn on to help reduce the blue light emission from your smartphone. For example, if you’re using an iPhone, you can use Night Shift to reduce blue light. To activate Night Shift on your iPhone, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. You can choose when you want Night Shift to start and stop and also adjust the color temperature.
If you’re using an Android phone, there’s also a built-in blue light filter that you can enable in your display settings, although the name may be different depending on your device. For example, Samsung calls it Eye comfort shield.
Alternatively, you can purchase blue light blocking glasses, which can help filter blue light from any screen.
3. Increase text size
Do you ever squint to read the text on your phone? Maybe it’s time to increase the text size. Squinting at a computer screen can lead to eye strain, according to a study in Optometry and Vision Science. And eye strain can make migraines worse.
To increase the text size on your iPhone, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Text Size. Here you can drag the slider to the right to enlarge the text.
On Android phones, go to Settings > Display, then find the font size option. Plus, you can take advantage of voice search and text-to-speech features to reduce the time you spend staring at text on your screen.
4. Use migraine management apps
It can be difficult for you to track your migraines and sometimes identify possible triggers. Luckily, you can use migraine tracker apps to help you log your symptoms, duration, pain level, and any other relevant information.
Migraine Buddy is a migraine and headache tracking app that helps you understand your condition and manage it better. The app lets you enter your symptoms, pain severity, location, and possible triggers. It also provides valuable insights based on your data and allows you to share your information with your doctor.
To download: Migraine Buddy for Android | iOS (free, subscription available)
5. Limit your screen time
One of the best things you can do for migraines is to reduce your screen time. It can be difficult, especially if you rely on screens for work or school, but it’s important to protect your health.
To help you limit your screen time, you can start by knowing how much time you spend on your phone. If you use an iPhone, you can use Screen Time features to reduce the time you spend on your phone.
To do this, go to Settings > Screen Time and explore your usage statistics. Once you know your most used apps, you can set some limits for yourself.
To check screen time on Android, go to Settings > Digital Wellbeing and Parental Controls. Additionally, you can also consider limiting your screen time without using a screen. For example, use an analog alarm clock instead of your phone’s built-in alarm to avoid spending time on your phone first thing in the morning.
Take steps to reduce the impact of your phone on your migraines
Although there is no surefire way to prevent migraines, there are steps you can take to reduce the frequency or severity of your migraine attacks. Taking steps to reduce your phone’s impact on migraines can be crucial to managing your condition and protecting your health.