We live in a world of technologies; we all know it has many downsides over the benefits. Now, a new study found that younger generations are sacrificing their sleep to spend more time on their phones and tablets.
The research, led by Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at the San Diego State University, found that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night than older generations. And one obvious reason would be, trading their sleep for smartphone time.
Sleep experts suggest that adolescents need maximum nine hours of sleep each night to be engaged and productive students. Sleeping less than seven hours is considered to be insufficient sleep.
A peek into any bleary-eyed classroom in the country will tell you that many youths are sleep-deprived, but it's unclear whether young people today are in fact sleeping less.
Lead researcher Twenge, along with psychologist Zlatan Krizan and graduate student Garrett Hisler--both at Iowa State University in Ames--examined data from two long-running, nationally representative, government-funded surveys of more than 360,000 teenagers.
The Monitoring the Future survey asked students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades how frequently they got at least seven hours of sleep, while the Youth Risk Behaviour Surveillance System survey asked 9th-12th-grade students how many hours of sleep they got on an average school night. The researchers found that about 40% of adolescents in 2015 slept less than seven hours a night, which is 58% more than in 1991 and 17% more than in 2009 after combining and analysing data from both surveys.
Delving further into the data, the researchers learned that the more time young people reported spending online, the less sleep they got. Teens who spent five hours a day online were 50% more likely to not sleep enough than their peers who only spent an hour online each day.
Smart phones use skyrocketed during the beginning of 2009, which Twenge believes, it might be the reason responsible for the 17% bump between 2009 and 2015 in the number of students sleeping seven hours or less.
Past research suggested that the light wavelengths emitted by smartphones and tablets can interfere with the body's natural sleep-wake rhythm. "Teens' sleep began to shorten just as the majority started using smartphones," Twenge added. "It's a very suspicious pattern."
Students might compensate for that lack of sleep by dozing off during daytime hours, noted Krizan. "Our body is going to try to meet its sleep needs, which means sleep is going to interfere or shove its nose in other spheres of our lives," he continued. "Teens may catch up with naps on the weekend or they may start falling asleep at school."
Undeniably for many, smartphones and tablets are an indispensable part of everyday life, so they key is moderation. However Twenge stresses that limiting usage to two hours a day should leave enough time for proper sleep and adding that it's a valuable advice for young and old alike.
"Given the importance of sleep for both physical and mental health, both teens and adults should consider whether their smartphone use is interfering with their sleep," she said. "It's particularly important not to use screen devices right before bed, as they might interfere with falling asleep."
The research was published in the journal Sleep Medicine.