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Smartphone Use at Night Not Good for Sleep Quality, Work Productivity

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Chronic Smartphone Use Can Lead to Mental Health Problems

Most of us say we feel “naked” without our smartphone by our side, available to make phone calls, send texts, or browse the Internet at a moment’s notice.  You’d think that with the increased availability of conducting these sorts of activities would lead to greater work productivity, at the very least.  However, researchers are finding that our obsession with our smartphones is leading to the opposite effect, in addition to other health problems.  This research was particularly intriguing to me, as it was co-authored by Dr. Russell Johnson, an assistant professor at Michigan State’s Department of Management.

Blue Light from Smartphones Disrupts Sleep

Dr. Johnson and colleagues conducted their research on upper management male professionals.  All of these men were also enrolled in a weekend MBA program.  They administered a survey to these men at different times of day over the course of two weeks, and tallied their smartphone use to take care of business after 9 p.m.  Survey items also questioned about sleep quality at night and daytime alertness.  Overall, the researchers found that using smartphones for business “at bedside” resulted in less sleep, and in turn, less energy during the day.  Furthermore, Dr. Johnson noted that the blue light emitted from smartphones can also disrupt sleep because it interferes with the sleep hormone melatonin.  The researchers also conducted a second survey on 136 employees representing a wide range of fields on their smartphone use at night, as well as their tablet, laptop, or TV use.  This second survey confirmed the results of the first.

Instant Communication Not the Best After All?

It’s unlikely that we’re going to toss out our smartphones any time soon, especially with most work cultures anticipating that employees will be available to at least email or text back at most any time of day.  However, this cultural norm is clearly affecting our health, so it might not be such a bad idea to unplug at night so you can get a good night’s sleep and be more alert and ready to work the next day.  The authors  note that the National Sleep Foundation estimates that 6 in 10 Americans report not getting enough sleep; perhaps it’s time we take a look at the factors contributing to this problem.