THE BLOG

The Addiction That Messes With Your Bed

22/10/2014 11:56 BST | Updated 21/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Amid health reports about the importance of a good night's sleep, and the fact that the average UK adult already spends more hours per day using media and communications than they do sleeping - according to The Communications Market Report from Ofcom - surely it would be reasonable to assume that precious time spent in bed would be mobile-free. However, latest research* reveals that this is not the case, with a staggering 70% of UK smartphone users checking their device before they even get out of bed in the morning.

As a nation we are becoming dependent on our smartphones and it is predicted that over 40 million Britons will be using these devices by 2016. Smartphones are always on, are always with us, and - according to Ofcom - maintain a steady reach of between 25% and 30% of the population throughout the day from 8am to 10pm. Latest research reveals that almost three in five (58%) of UK users take a look at their smartphone immediately before going to bed, two-thirds (66%) sleep with their phone by their bed, and a third (32%) even admit to checking their device if they wake up during the night.

While many will be using smartphones in bed to communicate with friends and family - or for entertainment - others are still engaged in work communications whilst propped up on their pillows. Of those who work during personal time, one in ten admits to reading or sending work related emails and texts in bed.

Like all addictions, this dependence on smartphones is taking its toll, so what are the implications of using these devices in bed and why should we all consider leaving them downstairs?

Sleep deprivation

The use of smartphones just before bed could be one of the major causes of sleep deprivation, according to a study by the University of Hertfordshire. The blue light produced by the screens of these devices is similar to natural morning light, which confuses the body clock. Blue light stimulates the brain and limits the production of melatonin - the sleep-inducing hormone - making it more difficult for us to drop off to sleep. The study indicates that using these devices in the two hours before bedtime is contributing to a nationwide epidemic of sleep deprivation, which is in turn associated with a range of medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Smartphone hangovers

As well as making it difficult to fall asleep, using smartphones late at night can also result in 'smartphone hangovers' the next day. A study from Michigan State University discovered that workers who monitored their smartphones for work purposes after 9pm at night were more tired and less productive at work the following day than those who did not. The impact of using smartphones late at night was found to be greater than that of watching TV or using laptops and tablets.

Work life balance

Smartphones have had a huge impact on the way we work, allowing us to be connected to business communications 24/7. For some this may improve work life balance as it allows more flexibility to take part in personal or family activities while still keeping an eye on the situation in the office. However smartphones also make it harder for us to detach ourselves from work and to relax, and their use removes the boundary between work and personal life. Using a smartphone for work purposes whilst in bed is undoubtedly an encroachment on our personal time.

As smartphone addiction creeps into bedrooms all over the country, it's clear that we need to make a conscious effort to disconnect. A nationwide epidemic of sleep deprivation, smartphone hangovers that sap our productivity, and an inability to switch off from work and relax, are all sure signs that our dependence on the smartphone has gone too far.

*Methodology

The survey was conducted in June 2014 among 1,000 adults (18+) in the UK and US respectively. Respondents were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Toluna surveys. Figures for age, gender, education, income, employment, and region were weighted to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the online population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.