Quick question: when was the last time you looked at your phone? Can this time be measured in hours, minutes…seconds?
Mobile devices, particularly smartphones, are now part and parcel of our daily lives. They can access nearly every piece of information: directions, bank account info, news and events, daily tasks, and many 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 several private and business functions and have revolutionized how we communicate with one another.
But, as with any “tool,” it can be misused.
The Unintended Consequences of Overusing Your Phone
Many experts in medicine, public health, law enforcement, and others overwhelmingly agree that smartphones have become a serious distraction – a distraction that can result in severe 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 deadly crashes stemmed from cell phones. Tragic.
Many of us are addicted to our smartphones – and this addiction has unintended consequences. These unintended consequences adversely affect our health and overall quality of life – and, maybe, the health and lives of others.
“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.
Sleep and Your Phone: A Bad Combination
While we may never be involved in a car accident resulting from misguided cell phone use, it can manifest 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, the 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 study’s primary objective was to test the hypothesis that increased screen-time results correlate 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, then 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.
The researchers obtained information relating to demographics, medical history, and sleeping habits as a control method.
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 – about 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.
Never Check Your Phone Before Going to Bed
Besides Ditching Your Phone, Here Are 12 Other Better Bedtime Habits
1. Keep All Electronics Out of Your Bedroom
While you know your cell phone can interrupt your sleep, any electronic can do the same. They emit blue light, and even the slightest of these lights can inhibit your rest. According to The Sleep Foundation, these lights stimulate the brain and make sleep challenging.
2. Wind Down and Hour Before Sleep
Many people can’t just hop into bed and fall right to sleep. So, it’s best to use a wind-down period to help your body and mind prepare. Maybe reading a book or playing the piano can help to calm you. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you do it in a dimly lit area to don’t stimulate yourself rather than relax.
3. Keep a Set Bedtime
Setting a time to go to bed and a time to wake is very important. Your body thrives on schedules, and your internal clock knows that 11 pm is time to go to sleep, and it will start preparing for that activity. You can mess up your circadian rhythm when your sleep/wake cycle is off, making you feel horrible.
According to The Sleep Foundation, your circadian rhythm is your internal clock that runs on a 24-hour cycle. This inner clock relies on environmental cues to operate, specifically light. Therefore, you feel tired when it’s dark outside and energized when it’s daytime.
4. Avoid Caffeine
While it may sound tempting to have a cup of coffee with dinner, it’s best to skip any caffeinated beverage after 3 pm. If you can’t make it that long without the caffeine boost, try avoiding these drinks three hours before your usual bedtime. Since caffeine is a stimulant, your restless nights can be caused by consuming too much of it.
5. Watch Your Liquid Intake
If you drink a big glass of water before bedtime, it only stands to reason that you will need to use the restroom during the night. Some folks have smaller bladders than others, so if you know getting up to go potty is an issue, you need to cut off all drinks after a specific time.
It’s estimated that a three-hour window with no liquids is sufficient. If your mouth gets dry, try some sugar-free gum or a mint to help keep your mouth moist without putting extra fluid into your system.