“All told, we look at our phones approximately 47 times a day, and that number rises to 82 for 18-24 year olds. Collectively US smartphone users check their phone in the aggregate more than 9 billion times per day.” – Deloitte & Touche: 2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey: US Edition
Quick question: when was the last time you looked at your smartphone? Can this time be measured in hours, minutes…seconds?
Mobile devices, particularly smartphones, are now part and parcel of our daily lives. They are able to access nearly every piece of information: directions, bank account info, news and events, daily tasks, and a myriad of others. Of course, they also provide near-immediate access to less-than-vital information.
Deloitte & Touche, perhaps the world’s most prominent consulting firm, concluded in a research study that: “…mobile devices have become so ubiquitous that anyone without access to one is unable to participate in the full spectrum of activities that comprise our global economy.” In other words, smartphones are becoming less of a “want” for many.
Smartphones are excellent tools; convenient and compact, they provide access to essential information. Smart devices serve a number of both personal and business functions, and have revolutionized the way we communicate with one another.
But, as with any “tool,” it can be misused.
The Unintended Consequences
Many experts within the fields of medicine, public health, law enforcement and others, overwhelmingly agree that smartphones have become a serious distraction – a distraction that can result in serious consequences.
In a report published by the National Safety Council, researchers reviewed 180 fatal vehicle accidents from 2009 to 2011. According to the report, 52 percent of all fatal crashes were caused by the use of cell phones. Tragic.
The point: many of us are addicted to our smartphones – and this addiction has unintended consequences. These unintended consequences adversely affects our health and overall quality of life – and, maybe, the health and lives of others.
Sleep and Smartphones: A Bad Combination
While we may never be involved in a car accident resulting from misguided cell phone use, it can manifest into health problems. According to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, excessive “screen time” has been linked to poor sleep quality – a widely-acknowledged public health concern.
Sufficient sleep is essential to both physical and mental health. Dr. Gregory Marcus, author of the study and director of clinical research at the University of California, San Francisco, concurs: “There’s growing evidence that poor sleep quality is not simply associated with difficulty concentrating and being in a bad mood the next day, but may be a really important risk factor to multiple diseases.”
Medical experts have discovered a correlation between sleep deprivation and cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, obesity, and premature death.
The Study: Hypothesis and Methodology
The primary objective of the study was to test the hypothesis that increased screen-time results correlates with poor sleep quality. To test this hypothesis, Marcus and his team measured smartphone screen time (defined as “the number of minutes in each hour the screen was on) via an approved application (“app”).
The researchers collected the data over a 30-day window, which was subsequently analyzed and categorized into total and average (per day) screen-time. The team computed the average screen-time during “self-reported bedtime hours” and periods of sleep.
As a control method, the researchers obtained information relating to demographics, medical history, and sleeping habits.
Results and Conclusions
Upon analyzing the aggregate data, the research team observed the following:
– Younger adults have a much higher average screen-time than other demographics.
– Participants exceeding the average screen-time had shorter durations of sleep and worse sleep-efficiency.
– Participants exceeding the average screen-time during self-reported bedtime hours “were associated with poor sleep quality, decreased sleep efficiency, and longer sleep onset latency (wakefulness).”
– Screen-time varies across demographics (e.g. age, race, socioeconomic status); potentially linking cultural aspects of a person with smartphone usage.
The study’s authors conclude the survey by citing the following information:
– The study’s results reinforce other published research – and related findings – pertaining to adults and smartphone use, and “confirm that adults spend a substantial amount of time using their smartphones.”
– Screen-time is strongly associated with poor sleep.
– Poor sleep may result in increased screen-time.
– Exposure to smartphone screens during bedtime may negatively affect sleep.