Using Smartphones at night?

Most people it seems these days, use them all the time, yet the use of smartphones and various electronic devices and their relationship with outcomes are understudied.

Tired young man - coffee and phone

Since the times of pre-history, we have been using artificial light to extend the waking day. Is using a smartphone at night smart?

As technology has progressed, our relationship with the night has changed and with the widespread use of electric lights, the night has essentially become optional.

This is not ideal perspective for health and well-being, however. Adverse outcomes arise from extending wakefulness, changing the circadian rhythm, causing depression, social jetlag (difference between body clock and social clock), obesity, depression and an increase in accidents.

recent years, the use of electronic devices in the bedroom has increased dramatically. When you think about it though, we know it, but we don’t know much about it.

A National Sleep Foundation study showed that approximately 90% of Americans report some technology use in the hour before bed! Although television was the most popular overall, young adults were more likely to be using cell phones. Other demographic differences existed as well, with younger adults being more likely to use computer, laptops and video game consoles.

The more types of devices used, the more individuals reported difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep, especially if the use of technology was active.

Regarding intrusions into sleep, 22% reported going to sleep with cell phone ringers on in their bedroom and 10% reported awakenings at least a few nights per week due to their phone. Among those with the ringer on, being awakened by the cell phone was significantly associated with difficulty maintaining sleep.

The more types of devices used, the more individuals reported difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep, especially if the use of technology was active.

In fact, playing a video game or talking on the phone may be more impactful on sleep than texting or browsing the internet.  Technology users tend to be younger, employed, experience financial stress. Technology use was independently associated with drowsy driving-related motor vehicle accidents/near miss per month, with missing work and making errors at work.

Studies for younger adults  have shown gender specific associations, especially among older adolescents (16- and 18-year-olds). Intensive computer usage forms a risk for boys’, and intensive mobile phone usage for girls’ carried perceived health risks.

Girls were more vulnerable to the negative consequences of intensive mobile phone usage, as it associated with perceived health complaints and musculoskeletal symptoms both directly and through deteriorated sleep and increased waking-time tiredness. The results of overuse of technology instead of sleep indicate a potential physiological, psychophysiological, psychological and social price.

Stephen Bray

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