Most of us can’t imagine our life without a smart phone. It’s now become such an integral part of our daily routines that trying to do without one would be like losing an arm or a leg. We socialize, manage our money, grocery shop and arrange professional calendars all via apps on the phone. And that’s before we even start filling in those boredom moments with amusing videos and games.
For migraine sufferers it can all add up to a world of pain. Fortunately, research studies have focused on the causes and effects of small screen usage, so we can identify ways to protect against most of the smart phone qualities that trigger migraine.
Why and How Phones can Trigger Migraine Attacks
Migraine triggers vary from person to person, and smart phones have the ability to create just about every one of the triggers on this list:
- Bright lights
- Flashing lights
- Eyestrain and poor posture
- Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality
- Sudden noises
Most migraineurs know their triggers, having spent time on close personal monitoring for behavior and diet. You can control many of the ways your phone behaves, however, and adopt usage habits and settings that make these indispensable devices less likely to trigger the pain you work so hard to avoid.
Avoid Migraine and Still Enjoy Your Phone
These tips will help you reduce the risk of triggering a migrane attack, but still enjoy the benefits of carrying and using a smartphone:
- Reduce the brightness of your screen. All phones have a dimming function that allows you to choose your screen’s light levels. While dimming the screen won’t help you deal with migraine symptoms, it will reduce the contrast between the screen and the surrounding light levels, which is more restful for your eyes.
- Adjust the blue light on your screen. Depending on your phone’s model and operating system, you can ‘warm’ up your screen by introducing a yellow or orange tint. If your phone has no way of internally changing the blue light, third party apps are available that can do this. Blue light is known to disrupt sleep patterns, which is one reason why we’re advised to avoid looking at screens before bedtime. Blue light suppresses melatonin production. Melatonin is a natural hormone that induces sleep. Sleep disruption or a change in sleeping patterns can induce migraine. It may be a cause you didn’t suspect was responsible for much of your pain.
- Use an anti-glare screen cover, and light sensitive glasses. Many migraineurs use these to cut down on migraine triggers during computer use, but few consider they could also reduce the similar threats from their smaller screens.
- Disable parallax displays and automatic rotation. These screen movements can induce nausea and a sense of motion sickness, easily triggering migraine attacks in some sufferers. The parallax display is the one that makes the background seem to change perspective in some wallpapers when you move the phone. Constant swiping and scrolling to find apps can also induce a feeling of motion sickness, so minimize this by grouping app icons into folders. As well as reducing the amount of motion on the screen, it also makes finding them quicker.
- Increase the text size. Eyestrain causes tension, and if you sit hunched over your phone for extended periods the problem is exacerbated through muscle tension caused by poor posture. Research has shown that we tend to hold smart phones closer to our eyes than we would hold printed materials, so another tactic is to hold the phone slightly further away than instinct dictates. The larger text size may help you remember to move the phone back from your eyes, even if you can easily read small fonts.
- Take regular breaks. Most of us constantly check our phones. We monitor incoming emails and check in with social media to see what everyone’s doing. Reaching for the phone whenever we have a moment to kill has become an ingrained habit. Time saving features such as voice commands and text dictation may also help you avoid too much intense screen time.
- Disable ‘autoplay’ functions. This applies particularly to some social channels and web pages. If constant noises, movement in the corner of your eye, or unexpected light effects trigger migraine attacks, those auto-playing videos and ads can spell danger. Adjust your settings (either in the phone or in your online preferences) so they don’t play unless you tell them to.
No one wants to be without a smart phone and miss out on the good things offered by modern technology. Triggers happen suddenly, without warning. Being aware of the likely dangers makes it possible to take precautions so you can go on enjoying all the good things in modern technology, without increasing the chances of a migraine attack.