Can’t sleep? Don’t do this
What is the last thing you do before going to bed? If it’s using your smartphone to catch up on news, emails and social media, you likely get less and lower quality sleep than those who don’t, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
During the 30-day study, 653 adults from all over the United States used an app that monitored their screen time. Study participants recorded their quality of sleep, including length of slumber. “We found that overall, those who had more smartphone use tended to have reduced quality sleep,” said Dr. Gregory Marcus, one of the study’s authors and director of clinical research for the division of cardiology at the University of California in San Francisco.
“While many people are in the habit of checking their phones before bed, people may also turn to their phone when they can’t fall asleep. Whatever the reason, using a digital device immediately before bed can affect sleep quality for some people,” says Dr. Muhammad A. Hamadeh, a pulmonologist and sleep specialist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Reading an email or seeing something on social media can stimulate the mind positively or negatively and in turn, can affect the ability to fall asleep or stay asleep.”
Getting enough sleep is important on so many levels, says Dr. Hamadeh. “In the short-term, lack of sleep can impair concentration, memory, will-power to avoid junk food, as well as your mood and emotional well-being.”
Dr. Hamadeh says that if sleep deprivation continues long-term, it can put you at higher risk for:
- heart attacks, heart failure, heart disease and irregular heartbeat
- high blood pressure and hypertension
- weight gain
- colds and flu
- depression and anxiety
While the study does not prove that screen time close to bedtime causes poorer sleep, if you are having trouble sleeping or don’t feel your quality of sleep is good, Dr. Marcus recommends avoiding your phone for an hour or so before going to bed to see if it helps.
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”