We all know that feeling of hearing our alarm go off telling us it’s time to wake up (mine usually causes me to jump a foot because when the Circle of Life starts blaring at 7am it is enough for a heart attack). We feel exhausted, eyes are droopy, and sometimes feel like you spent the entire night before drinking (even when you didn’t!). Well, according to a study from Michigan State University, using your phone before bed can cause you to have a “cellphone hangover.”
The study was published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal. It contained two parts. The first part of the study had 82 upper-level managers answer survey questions every day for two weeks asking about their smartphone usage. The surveys were administered at 6am and 4pm. The researchers found, to no surprise, that smartphone use after 9pm was associated with decreased sleep at night. Because of the lack of sleep, the participants felt more exhausted during the day that then caused a lack of engagement at work during the day.
Researchers made sure when conducting the research that reverse causation was not a reason by using a mathematical model. However, the researchers did find that daily work engagement did not predict smartphone use a night.
The second part of the survey broadened the range of people surveyed and included 161 employees who worked in all different fields. The participants took the surveys the same way as in the first part of the study, however they were also asked to use other electronics like TVs and computers to see how they affected sleep, work engagement, and morning depletion. The researchers at MSU found very similar results to the first part of the study. They also found that smartphones had a bigger impact than using a computer or watching TV.
The study concluded that smartphones are “almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep.” However, there are some problems with this study’s design. The first part of the study did not include other forms of devices, but the second part did with a wider range of participants. This causes me to question if there are confounding variables to the study. Could the stress level of certain jobs cause a lack of sleep? And if certain jobs create a lack of sleep, could the use of smartphones have little to no impact but appear that way? I think the Michigan State University researchers were on the right track, but the design of the study leaves room for other variables to affect sleep.