Under the Hood

Sleep Affected By Apps, Not Just Smartphone Use, Study Suggests

When it comes to losing sleep, is there any significance with the type of apps we choose to browse before going to bed?

Researchers from Mattress Advisor decided to find this out by conducting a survey examining the phone habits of 1,010 Americans before bedtime. The results were broken down by the variables of age and app choices.

The participants were divided into three groups based on the generation they were born into: millennials (born between 1981 and 1996), generation X (born between 1965 and 1980), and baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964). They ranged in age from 18 to 81, with a mean of 35. Generation Z and the silent generation, the groups born after the millennials and before the boomers respectively, were excluded due to insufficient sample sizes. 

Overall, nearly 77% of respondents used social media apps before going to sleep while less than 39% preferred playing games. Only 14.6% used their phones to read before trying to fall asleep. 

Facebook was found to be the most popular app across all age groups, particularly Gen X. This trend was reflected in a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. The data reported that 68% of adults in the United States used Facebook, making it the most popular social media platform after Youtube. 

One in 5 millennials and 1 in 10 Gen Xers used Reddit while boomers were least likely to use it. It also appeared that millennials were less likely to tweet or read tweets before bedtime compared to the other two generations. Unsurprisingly, boomers were the group most likely to shun social media as nearly 19% reported that they didn't use any apps before bed. 

Respondents were then asked to rate their quality of sleep on a scale of 1-5 (with 1 being the poorest), and also log in the number of hours spent sleeping. Participants who didn't use apps were the ones who rated their sleep a perfect 5. Users who watched videos on Youtube reported the lowest quality as well as the lowest quantity of sleep. Users of Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr reported above-average sleep quantity but below-average quality.

The study also suggested that the nature of the content people are exposed to might play a role in their sleep pattern. Those who read educational content (relating to books, finance) took the longest to fall asleep.

Millennials reported that such content kept them up over 41 minutes on average. Boomers, on the other hand, were kept up by nearly 44 minutes after reading persuasive content relating to news, shopping, magazines etc. Gen Xers displayed the most consistency in this section, kept up between 26 to 33 minutes across every type of content they consumed. 

Researchers promoted lighter usage of phones before and after sleep, recommending a 'do not disturb' mode and placing the device at a distance from your bed. They highlighted a limitation to the study as the data was self-reported which can lead to inaccuracies such as selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.