An addictive obsession with digital technology is increasingly bad for us and bad for business - and an issue that needs addressing, one of the world’s top wellbeing experts has warned.
Sue Harmsworth of ESPA says our widespread reliance on mobile phones and tablets these days is disturbing our sleep patterns and threatening our health and wellbeing.
Sue, founder and owner of the globally renowned ESPA spa brand 25 years ago, was speaking as she opened a new product house and spa facility at Macdonald Craxton Wood Hotel at Ledsham.
Blue light levels - the type issued by smartphones and other digital devices, has for some years now been associated with health fears. But increasingly our use of technology - or overuse of it - is contributing to sleep deprivation, she believes.
Sue, the chairman of the Global Wellness Summit, who was awarded an MBE for her expertise and work in the field over a quarter of a century, said: “We are seeing more anxiety among the young - and when I say young I’m including people in their 30s really.
“That is definitely technology overload from the point of view of social media and all their devices going all the time.
“Then there’s the problem of having magnetic fields in the house, or in the flat and wherever you sleep - all this stuff has been proven now to have a detrimental effect on health.
“I think we are all recognising it - so that’s a good thing. The medical profession are recognising it.
“And the problem that we are going to have is finding the practitioners who are genuine and who really know how to deal with this.”
Sue’s ESPA company operates in 60 countries with 250 staff. The development at Craxton Wood, set in 27 acres of Cheshire woodland, will, it is hoped, be the first of many with the Macdonald hotel chain.
She added: “I said something that was quoted extensively and it was that the last ten years have been about focusing on our bodies - while the next ten years will have to be be about focusing on our minds.
“I think we have to learn to handle technology. Instead of every time your phone buzzes and you go to it, try and do your emails in a batch.
“The big thing too that the doctors are saying is to switch off your technology two hours before you go to bed - which is not easy if you have got addicted to it.
“And don’t have televisions in the bedroom - no technology in the bedroom - and switch off the wi-fi in the house as well.
“The whole thing now is that we should almost be treating ourselves like babies before we go to bed.
“It’s like going back, so don’t have alcohol or coffee after say eight or nine o’clock; don’t over exercise - go for a walk by all means but so many people are on their cross trainers or whatever often late at night.
“I’ve done sleep programmes where 50% of the people have given me their tablets and 50% haven’t and we’ve seen the difference in how they sleep. It is quite fascinating.”
Companies and business leaders too can help employees to manage their use of technology and practices better too, she stresses.
She said: “We are going to have to teach email management for companies as well.
“You know this thing of copying ten people on an email? We have an email free Friday in the office at ESPA where we make people go and talk to each other. So they are not allowed to send internal emails once a month. But they have to go and talk to each other.
“It’s also about people trying to get stuff off their desk so they copy in who knows who - and they simply don’t need to. You are constantly getting this stream of emails and half of them are unnecessary.
“So it’s time we learned to manage it all. I’m sure it’s all going to change but how it is going to change, I don’t think we can predict.
“I mean social media for kids is, I think, really worrying. There’s already a backlash against a lot of that.
“But unless it changes it can be bad for people’s health. No question.
“It’s not an anti technology message - it’s about managing your life and health - exactly that.
“Technology is here to stay so we all just have to manage it much better than we do.”