Increased Smartphone Screen Time Tied to Worse Sleep Quality

Fresh evidence has come to light revealing the detrimental effects of increased smartphone use on our health. Stress, poor eyesight, sleeplessness, concentration issues are some of the problems known to be associated with extreme use of smartphones.

Now, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, USA have also found that slouching over mobile phones for hours may cost you shut-eye!

The researchers linked increased smartphone screen time, especially near bedtime, to worse quality of sleep, which may further lead to health conditions like obesity, diabetes and depression.

“This is the first study to directly measure actual screen time in natural environments and compare it to sleep quality,” said senior author of the study Dr. Gregory M. Marcus of the University of California, San Francisco. “We did not rely on participant self-report, but rather utilized a mobile app that ran in the background and could capture exact screen time duration.”

In order to determine whether the extreme smartphone use and poor sleep quality might be related, Dr. Marcus and co-researchers analyzed data on 653 adults across the United States who were enrolled in the internet-based Health eHeart Study.

Participants’ smartphones were embedded with a mobile application that recorded screen time, defined as the number of minutes in each hour that the phone screen was on. The mobile app collected data continuously over a 30-day period. The study subjects also recorded their sleeping hours and sleep quality as well as self-reported their personal demographics and medical information.

After analysing the collected data, the research team estimated that total screen time averaged 38.4 hours per 30day window, and the mobile screen time per hour averaged 3.7 minutes, equivalent to one hour and 29 minutes per day.

The team found that longer average screen-time was associated with sleep difficulties overall, particularly when participants used their smartphones near bedtime.

Statistically, 42 percent of the participants with a longer average screen time were more likely to have poorer sleep quality and less sleep overall, compared to about 35 percent of those who used their smartphones for shorter amounts of time than average.

“When we looked at smartphone use around the time when participants reported they went to bed, more smartphone use around that time in particular was associated with a longer time to fall asleep and worse sleep quality during the night,” said Marcus.

“Avoiding smartphone screens is almost certainly low risk,” he said. “Therefore, if an individual is having difficulty falling asleep or maintaining an adequate quality of sleep, I think our observations support a good trial of screen time avoidance to determine if it helps that person obtain a good night’s sleep,” he concluded.

The study was published November 9, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.