We’ve all heard about how sleep is important, and how smartphones make it more difficult to sleep well. But do you know how much smartphones make a difference? Not only does it take longer to sleep, but the use of smartphones makes the quality of sleep worsen as well. Dr. Gregory Marcus, author of a study conducted on this very relationship between smartphones and sleep, and associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, recently published the results of his study. This study piggy-backed off another one that involved participants age, gender, and other demographic data, as well as “alcohol use, physical activity, smoking habits, and other health issues”. By recording all of these factors, in addition to assessing each participant’s sleep, the participants wouldn’t know exactly what the study was testing for, and therefore were less likely to include any bias.
The results that Marcus found were astounding. 35% of people who used smartphones for shorter-than-average time had sleep difficulties, while 42% of people who use smartphones for higher-than-average time had sleep difficulties. These results were even stronger when participants used these devices right before going to bed.
A closer look at the age range of people who were affected most by their smartphones is also concerning, especially as we delve further into the technological age. In a 2012 poll conducted by Time/Qualcomm, younger people admitted to being the most likely to be affected by smartphone use. In fact–24% of 18-24 year olds stated that they “don’t sleep as well because of technology”, while each category, as the ages got older, stated that their sleep was less affected by technology. Similarly, the same trend occurred when participants were asked, “where do you keep your phone?”, and the options were “in the bedroom; within reach”, “in the bedroom; out of reach”, and “different room”, with 18-24 year olds being the most likely to have their phone within reach.
So why does this happen, and what does it mean? Scientifically, smartphone emits blue light, which lesses melatonin reproduction in the brain. Melatonin, to explain, is the main hormone secreted in the brain that tells humans when it is time to sleep. Levels of this hormone typically increase around 9pm, which is when the mind tells the rest of the body that it is less alert, and sleep becomes more enticing. Getting enough sleep is incredibly important because the lack thereof can cause many other problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression. In short, sleep is the body’s way of resetting, and restoring critical levels of energy that let you conduct life as you do–and no time playing around on your smartphone is worth hampering that.