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Flex-Ed: Why the National Day of Unplugging should lead to better year-round health

Living Well

This week, we're going to switch things up from our usual account topics to remind you that your tax-free funds are good for a lot more than just items in your medicine cabinet. FSAs are for all-around wellness. (If that isn't a good reminder for "Flex-Ed" we don't know what is…)

That includes tech health. On Friday, March 1 2019, many Americans observed the National Day of Unplugging -- a 24-hour stretch when people vowed to put away their tech and focus on the people, places and events happening right in front of their eyes. Sounds easy, right? Well, maybe not -- according to a recent report, we're now spending an average of 24 hours per week on their phones.

Yikes.

Because of this, my friends and I got into a lunch discussion about our smartphones. At various points in the conversation, each of us complained about how we feel like we are on our phones too much — in the morning before we get up, while we're getting ready for the day, throughout the day and then before we fall asleep.

One of my friends tried to laugh as she admitted, "I think I spend more time scrolling on my phone than I spend with you all."

The most concerning part? That 24 hours a week doesn't account for the time we spend in front of laptops, tablets and televisions. But apart from the mental health issues that can arise from too much screen time (which are many and varied), there are physical health issues associated with screen time, too. And they're avoidable.

Even if you missed this year's National Day of Unplugging, there are bigger, year-long lessons to learn from this. Take a few minutes to learn how we began to avoid common, tech related health issues.

Focus on your sleep

Blue light, the type of light that comes from your smartphone, can have a negative effect on your ability to sleep. In fact, it can suppress melatonin for twice as long as other types of light. If you're on your phone before bed or looking at a computer screen, that's bad news for your sleep cycle.

If you've been struggling to fall asleep at night or sleeping poorly, then it might be time to put down the technology devices and to talk with your doctor about sleep deprivation treatment.

Sleep deprivation treatment means something different for everyone and largely depends on what your doctor recommends, but it usually includes a series of therapies and non-drug treatments that are designed to help you sleep better at night. Luckily, sleep deprivation treatment is FSA-eligible.

You might also benefit from over the counter sleep aids. Sleep aids are eligible with a prescription, so it might be a good idea to talk with your doctor about it while you're at your appointment.

Make time for an eye exam

According to the experts, excessive screen time (hello, desk job!) may harm your eyesight. There are some things you can do on your own to minimize the negative impact on your eyes, like the 20-20-20 rule, which recommends that you take a 20-second break from your screen for every 20 minutes you look at it. During that break, you should look at something that is 20-feet away. But despite the best tips and tricks, it may be time for an eye exam.

Eye exams and prescription glasses are FSA- and HSA-eligible, so this is a great time to use your tax-free funds.

Stretch and regroup

Whether your hunched over your keyboard all day or looking down at your phone from the comfort of your bed, our bodies can get into some weird positions as a result of technology. One of the best things you can do for yourself is stretch, regroup and utilize acupressure.

Acupressure is often referred to as "acupuncture without the needles" and the name is well-deserved. It's an at-home treatment for aches and pains that is FSA-eligible (when used for medical purposes). Get a pillow or other therapeutic tool that works for you and remember to use it. Your body will thank you.

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New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our weekly Flex-Ed column gives you a weekly dose of FSA Living 101, offering tips for making the most of your tax-free funds. Look for it every Thursday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center.

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