How digital devices are used before bed affects sleep quality

February 14, 2022
How digital devices are used before bed affects sleep quality

The type of media consumed before bedtime appears to affect the duration and quality of sleep, according to research led by Lindsay Hahn from the University at Buffalo, US. Findings indicate that some people may get more rest depending on how they use digital devices, such as by watching or listening to something for a short while before going to sleep, instead of social media use.

“Despite social media getting a lot of attention both in research circles and in popular culture, American time-use surveys show that people still spend a lot of time with television, music, and books [entertainment media],” said Hahn.

In this research, some 58 adults were tasked with self-reporting their media use the hour before going to sleep every night: the kind of media they consumed (television, podcast, book, etc.); where they were using the media (in bed or the lounge room); and whether they were multitasking their usage (for example, scrolling through their phone while watching television).

The researchers had also trained the adults to use an electroencephalography (EEG) machine at home for more detailed insights in their self-reports.

“We found that media use just prior to the onset of sleep is associated with an earlier bedtime and more total sleep time, as long as the duration of use is relatively short and you’re not multitasking, like texting or simultaneously scrolling social media,” said Hahn. “Watching a streaming service or listening to a podcast before bed can serve as a passive, calming activity that improves aspects of your sleep.”

While briefly watching television in bed was found to improve overall sleep duration, the benefits quickly dissipated when media use extended to long periods of time – “If you are going to use media, like watching TV or listening to music, before bed, keep it a short, focused session and you are unlikely to experience any negative outcomes in your sleep that night,” said researcher Morgan Ellithorpe from the University of Delaware.

Another recent study, specifically investigating the effects of social media use on sleep quality, found that while social media use for 30 minutes before sleep had no effect, listening to a 30-minute relaxation exercise did make significant improvements to sleep quality.

The unsurprising conclusion was the recommendation that people who wanted to improve their sleep quality should avoid social media use and explore pre-sleep relaxation or meditation. The study also indicated that although brief social media use didn’t seem to intrinsically effect sleep quality or duration it could still delay one’s sleep onset and lead to shorter overall sleep time.

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Category: Education, Features

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