Screens Affect Sleep And Health, Study Says

Yes, your smartphone screen affects your sleep — and not in a good way, according to a recent study by a team of researchers in Norway. The study analyzed responses to a survey about the sleep habits of almost 10,000 teens, ages 16 to 19, in Western Norway.

The survey data showed differences in how teen girls and boys spent their screen time. Girls spent an average of five and a half hours per day with various types of devices, whereas boys averaged about seven hours each day, with one hour on game consoles and one hour on computer games. More than 90 percent of girls and 80 percent of boys reporting using a cell phone within the hour before bedtime.

After analyzing the survey responses, researchers concluded that using a screened device before bed was associated with more difficulty falling asleep. Similarly, extensive screen time throughout the day was associated with taking a long time, more than 60 minutes, to fall asleep.

Lead researcher Dr. Mari Hysing concludes, “The light from the screens may directly affect our circadian rhythms, and teenagers may be especially sensitive.”

This is not the first study to conclude that smartphones and other devices can interfere with sleep. In 2014, the BBC reported that researchers were investigating the impact of blue light, in particular, on our sleep and health. Charles Czeisler, from Harvard University, told BBC that energy-efficient light bulbs and devices like smartphones and tablets emitted high levels of blue light, which tends to disrupt the body clock.

Czeisler is quoted as saying, “light exposure, especially short wavelength blue-ish light in the evening, will reset our circadian rhythms to a later hour, postponing the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin and making it more difficult for us to get up in the morning.”

Studies have shown that the body’s natural rhythm can be disrupted by short sleep durations or shift work. Also, chronic health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity had been linked to lack of sleep in recent years. And, the recent deaths of gamers who lacked sleep have caught the public’s attention.

To help address these issues, Hysing feels that public health guidelines should include all types of screen devices, not just televisions and computers. The Independent quotes her as saying, “Parents should be aware of the use of all types of electronic devices in the bedroom. At a minimum, keep the night-time screen-free in the bedroom, and ideally be logged off an hour or so before they go to sleep.”

[Image: Children Using Smartphone]