An Analysis of Responses to the Survey
Screen vs. No Screen
Using results as of 11/30/2017
Part 2: Evaluation and Conclusions
How Electronic Screen Device Usage Affects Sleep
Since this is small sample, it is not definitive, but only indicative. Those acknowledging a poor sleep experience tend to use electronic screen devices longer and closer to bedtime. This also appears to be the case for those with below average sleep experiences.
Time of Use
Only four people rated their sleep experience as Above Average. They varied on the screen devices used, but showed a pattern of usage. All admitted using their devices until ≤20 minutes close to bedtime. The one using multiple devices had the shortest time of usage (≤20 min.), which may mean usually only one used at a time. One (smart phone) used theirs for about one hour, and two (TV and computer) said about two hours.
For those claiming an average sleep experience, seven both used their devices for 20 minutes or less and quit 20 minutes or less before bedtime. Three each used their devices until 20 minutes or less before going to bed and used them approximately for 1 hour and for 2 hours. One response seems to contradictory, with two devices named, no devices used before bedtime, and devices used until 20 or fewer minutes prior to bed (perhaps they were confused by the selections). Four claimed to quit one or two hours before time to sleep. Two of these said they used their devices 20 minutes or less, including one whose device evidently was not on the list (maybe it was a Kindle or other e-book reader). One claimed about two hours use time, and another seems to be a disconnect (don’t use), which could mean they use it a lot more than 2 hours (like all day).
The nine participants who say they use their devices for approximately 2 hours cover each of the sleep quality ratings, with one Above Average, four Average, one Below Average, and two Poor.
Of the nine participants using more than one screen device within two hours before bedtime, seven acknowledged using them until 20 minutes or less before going to bed. Of these, one rated the sleep experience as Above Average, four as Average, and two as Below Average.
Two of the seven list 3 devices and quit using them ≤20 minutes before going to bed. The one with a tablet, smart phone, and TV claimed Above Average, and the one with smart phone, TV, and computer rated as Below Average. The first one is less likely to be using all three on the same nights, and the second one more likely, which may indicate that more intense usage close to bedtime affects the quality of sleep negatively.
With 61% of participants (19) reporting an average sleep experience, this is the most statistically reliable line in the survey results, with about half using electronic screen devices for 20 minutes or less in the hours before bedtime, and 74% (14) quitting 20 or fewer minutes before going to bed.
All of those rating their sleep as Above Average quit screen usage less than 20 minutes before bed, but have a evenly distributed length of usage. Below Average users use their devices longer and closer to bedtime on the average. Poor sleep quality participants all use smart phones for 1+ hours to within 20 minutes of bedtime.
Implications of the Survey Results
The results of this survey suggest that the use of electronic screen devices before going to bed does not have as strong an effect on adults as is alleged by many bloggers and others, but there does appear to be some effect.
Some of the variables affecting sleep that are not covered in the survey are –
- The age and physical states of the participants
- Whether they keep the same bedtime consistently
- Sleeping partners
- Other activities within 2 or 3 hours before bed
- Types of beds, mattresses, and pillows
- Diet and medications
- Room conditions: temperature, lighting, air quality
Results of Scientific Studies
However, reports of controlled studies indicate a stronger correlation between screen usage and sleep. This is even more critical for children and youth. Screen devices not only occupy time and attention, but affect melatonin production through their lighting – depending largely on specific wavelengths.
What Can We Do?
As to what we actually can do, Time to Sleep – Part 2, another Sleep Issues article, has these tips for getting enough sleep:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule
- Prepare to sleep with relaxing activities
- Don’t go to bed on a too full or too empty stomach
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime
- Make the room comfortable for sleeping
- Have physical activity and outdoor time during the day
- Control stress
Another Sleep Issues article, Counting Sheep – Getting to Sleep, deals with overcoming barriers to sleep, including pre-bedtime activities.
How About the Mattress and Pillow?
By and large, sleep is affected to a greater degree by the mattress and the pillow(s). For some, this also includes the bed itself, with adjustable beds helping on issues such as sleep apnea, circulation, and back posture.
Having the right mattress will help us to sleep better. A mattress – such as a memory foam mattress – which conforms to body contours to relieve pressure means better sleep and better spinal health, mitigating back pain. Variations in the composition and construction of the mattress can more finely tune the fit of the bed for conditions. Examples of these are the three Tri-Pedic models by Selectabed for average sleepers, and the Fibro-Pedic for those with fibromyalgia.
Screen usage is one of several factors influencing how well we sleep. Some of the others are activities, diet, health conditions, emotional state, stress, room atmosphere, sleep partner, bed, mattress, and pillow. We can have the right bed, mattress, and pillow, control the other factors, and still sabotage our sleep with bad screen device habits.
We cannot take a desktop computer to bed with us, but we can stay up way too long using it, delaying bedtime. Having a TV on in the bedroom may put us to sleep, but the sound and flickering light can keep us from experiencing complete sleep cycles. Smart phones and e-book readers are easier to use in bed, keeping us awake even though we are in the right place at the right time. An adjustable bed is great for adjusting posture for back sleepers, but sitting up makes the use of smart phones and e-book readers more tempting. This also makes it possible to use a laptop or notebook computer in bed.
At the end of the day, what we sleep on and what we do combine to shape our sleep experience.