Does your cellphone disrupt your sleep?

Ever since I came to Penn State I have been sleeping next to my phone. I need to charge it next to me and I’ve been wondering if this is something that affects my sleep in any way. I have noticed that easily distracts my roommate and me prior to going to sleep. It has become a reason for us to stay up late. For this reason I wanted to do some research and see if it actually has an effect on my hours of sleep or the quality of my sleep.

I found a study by the National Sleep Foundation, about how sleep and other disturbances may affect the quality of sleep of a person. So the question here is: Does technology affect the quality of sleep of a person? Reverse causation needs to be ruled out because this is a longitudinal study meaning that scientists needed to wait and follow up the participants in order to see the effects that technology had on their sleep. On the other hand, this can be causal, also due by chance or have a third confounding variable that affects the x and y variables in some way.

According to a study conducted, technology has an effect on the sleep ¬†of an individual. There were 420 participants involved in the study who where randomly chosen but needed to be eligible for them to be on it. Scientists determined eligibility through a questionnaire that asked for personal data such as education, employment, age and gender, caffeine usage. They decided these factors or confounding variables needed to be controlled as they could affect the sleep of an individual. This is the reason why they determined a certain standard for the participants who could be involved in the study and the ones who couldn’t. The 420 participants where divided into four different groups depending on their age:

Eleven questions were given to them asking about how the lack of sleep affected their daily activities. Depending on their group age it involved questions about how their lack of sleep affected their academic performance, intimate relations, or other activities that may be influenced by age. The results are shown in the data below.

Scientists later decided to conduct research about how the quality of sleep of a person may be affected by technology through beta waves. Confounding variables such as the amount of caffeine used by the participants were controlled. Table 1 (seen below) is a linear progression that suggests a correlation between the use of technology prior to sleep and difficulty falling sleep, maintaining sleep or having un-refreshing sleep. Scientists compared both passive and interactive technological devices. These were the two arms of study that later on were analyzed to determine which of them had a greater impact on sleep. The passive devices were TV, music players and others that did not require too much cognitive abilities of the participant. On the other hand, interactive devices involved cell phones, computers, and games.

The results indicated that passive devices did not significantly affect the quality of sleep of the participants. However, interactive devices demonstrated a negative effect on sleep. Scientists found that cell phones, video games and computers were the technological devices that most affected the participants. The probability that it was due to chance was .03, .0001, .049 respectively. It is unlikely that the results were due to chance but it can never be ruled out, there is always a possibility.

Furthermore, this is an observational study. Scientists had to wait and see the effects technology had during and after the participants slept. They believe that interactive technology had a negative effect on sleep. They also determined that most people use their technological devices an hour before going to sleep. This was one of the main causes of them not having a good night sleep. However, meta-analysis would be the best thing to figure this out and know what is going on. Science can always prove things, but scientists cannot be totally confident about the results they find. Even though, this is a reliable study and may change the cellphone habits of many people it would need replication to make sure the conclusion is accurate.

To conclude, it is controversial whether the use of cellphones affects the quality of your sleep but people have reasons to believe it may. It would be recommendable and rational to check on your habits in order to take care of your health and sleep.

2 thoughts on “Does your cellphone disrupt your sleep?

  1. Lauren Hile

    Great blog! I agree with you that whenever I stay up before bed on my cellphone, or even on my computer for that matter, I have a much harder time falling asleep. I actually just published a blog similar to this one about the effects that computers and cellphones can have on use compared to reading regular books and print materials. I found that a hormone called melatonin is suppressed when we use our phones late at night. Melatonin is the hormone that helps us sleep and stay asleep, so that might be why we have trouble going to sleep after being on our phones. Here’s an article further explaining melatonin.

  2. Raegan S Pechar

    I’ve actually looked into this study as well before. My mom has always scolded me, “Do NOT sleep near your phone – you’ll get cancer!”. Nowadays, to many people simply breathing puts you at risk to develop cancer. I do know that the radiations emitted from the phone COULD be of risk, but little evidence has actually proved or disproved this, yet. There has also been talk of the LED screening having an effect on how well you sleep, and with the new IOS update, you can change the pigmentation of your screening come nighttime. So at 10 o’clock every night, my phone changes from the LED blue, to an off yellow color. Here’s a study that digs further into that issue:

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