You’ll sleep better if you don’t read that email

November 10, 2016 Providence Health Team

If you need sleep, resist the urge to check your phone one last time before bed.

A new study takes a rigorous look at the relationship between sleep and the use of electronic devices at bedtime and reached the same conclusions as earlier analyses: Checking your screen near bedtime seems to shorten your sleep and make it less sound.

“Our study found that, not surprisingly, people spend a lot of time interacting with their phones,” said senior author Gregory Marcus, M.D., a cardiologist at the University of California San Francisco. “This was the first study to examine such use in a broad population, directly measuring screen time rather than relying on self-reported use. And, those with more screen time use had poorer sleep.”

Tracking smartphone use

Researchers tracked smartphone use through an application installed on the phones of the 653 volunteers. From Sept. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015, the app counted the number of minutes the screen was on and transmitted the data back to the researchers’ database. Sleep habits were assessed with a tool called the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.

Among the findings:

  • The total screen time for 30 days averaged 38.4 hours.
  • The median session was 3.7 minutes per hour.
  • Longest screen times were recorded by younger people and those who reported their ethnicity as “Black and Other.”

“Longer average screen times during bedtime,” the researchers wrote, “were associated with poor sleep quality, decreased sleep efficiency, and longer sleep onset latency.”

Providence takes seriously the importance of sound sleep. We have providers who focus on sleep disorders and how to improve your quality of life through better sleep. You can find a Providence provider here.

To learn more

The study, “Direct Measurements of Smartphone Screen-Time: Relationships with Demographics and Sleep,” was published as an open-access article on PLOS/One. The University of California San Francisco news center published a reader-friendly story about the study.

We’ve written about the connection between smartphones and a range of behaviors, including sleep. We’ve also discussed the importance of getting a good night’s sleep:

The National Institutes of Health invites you to “Test Your Sleep I.Q.” with an interactive quiz.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a “Sleep and Sleep Disorders” portal, with sections on key sleep disorders, the links between sleep disorders and chronic disease, tips for getting better sleep and data about people’s sleep habits.

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