Can’t sleep? Don’t do this

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 U.S. 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
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Accidents
  • 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. Hamadeh recommends avoiding your phone for an hour or so before going to bed to see if it helps.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for this important article. I believe getting enough sleep can help affect the safety of our work and personal life, affecting our concentration, mood, and overall quality of life. Thanks for helping bring this to light. One of my favorite activities to do which helps me fall asleep quickly is reading a book (a regular paper book, not on a digital table nor computer- the bright lights interfere), however not a book which has action or excitement in its content. I wonder if anyone has any insight on if it is appropriate to read before trying to sleep; for me it seems to help and work well.

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About the Author

Kate Eller
Kate Eller

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.”