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How Screens Affect Sleep and Remedies to Conquer It

Charles Schnell, member of the LOG OFF Writers Group, addresses a key problem faced by many teens : smartphones in relation to sleep. Analyzing some of the current research, he shows readers how we all may remedy this issue.

A fair assumption to make, I think, about the world today is this : most if not all of us (and I am not excluding myself) who have devices which can access Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media, have stayed up later than we should have to watch one final video, like one final photo, comment one final witty remark with an emoji after it. Most of us have had the experience of lying esconced in darkness, fixated on the bright pixels scintillating from a small rectangular screen. We hold it closer to make it appear larger. Then, a higher percentage of our vision is caught in a screen’s artificial, two-dimensional light, even though a vastly higher percentage of the three-dimensional room’s volume is natural, beautiful darkness.

Social media and phones affect sleep patterns. In a study conducted by Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga, Hayley A Hamilton, and Jean-Phillippe Chaput, using data from the 2015 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, they found that 63.6% of 5242 teenage students were not sleeping for as long as recommended for their age groups. 73.4% of students reported using social media for at least one hour per day. The odd ratio* of not getting enough sleep for students using social media for at least one hour per day was 1.82, and for those who using it for at least five hours a day, the odd ratio* rose dramatically to a 2.98 (Sampasa-Kanyinga, Hamilton, Chaput, 2018).

Another study shows that teenagers who are “very high social media users” (more than five hours per day) were 70% likelier to fall asleep late on school nights than teenagers who are “average social media users” (one to three hours a day) (BBC News). It also might be worth noting that, according to a study in BMJ Open, it was shown that girls were likelier to be “very high social media users” than boys, and while the percentage of boys and of girls having late sleep onsets and late wake times were similar, girls had much more trouble falling asleep after a nighttime awakening than boys did (Scott, Biello, Woods).

This study proves a coorelation between social media usage and sleep deprivation. There are multiple reasons for this. First, the physcial : the blue light emitted from screens can cause you to feel more energized than you should before bed by disrupting your melatonin production; it can even cause damage to your retinas overtime (Prevent Blindness). There is also a psychological component to how phones ruin one’s sleep schedule. According to Dr. Holly Scott from Glasgow University, teenagers struggle to part with their phones, as well as fall asleep quickly, because they have a “fear of [missing] out” by sleeping while others are posting online (BBC News).

Aside from reporting these pieces of evidence, I can also say that I have experienced this relation between phones and sleep deprivation myself. I used to go on my phone or laptop a lot before bed, mostly either to finish homework or to watch a funny YouTube video to relax. However, over the past two years and especially during the past four months, I have devoted myself to avoiding the use of technology (besides background music, although I am falling away from that as well) for at least half an hour, preferably an hour, before bed. From firsthand experience, I can tell you that the results have been apparent and worthwhile. I sleep seven to nine hours every night. I feel immensely more energized and motivated when I wake up. I spend less time pondering in bed before leaning out of it to start the day. I’ve stopped caring about “missing out”—although, that was never a huge problem for me. And the joy I get from a substantial sleep is greater than any funny YouTube video or background music could give me.

For those who are struggling with sleeping well and find themselves spending time with their phones before or while lying in bed, I recommend putting the phone down and taking time to read a book, draw, stretch, think about things to be grateful for, or do anything that does not involve the use of screens for at least half an hour. I promise it will help us enjoy life more and live our lives more fully.

* An odd ratio demonstrates the likelihood of something happening because something else occurred, such as a student suffering from sleep deprivation because of social media use. When the odd ratio reaches 1.00, the odds of an event happening become likely. The higher the ratio, the higher the likelihood.

References -

“Blue Light and Your Eyes.” Prevent Blindness, 27 Oct. 2020,

“Heavy Social Media Use Linked to Poor Sleep.” BBC News, BBC, 23 Oct. 2019,

Sampasa‐Kanyinga, H., Hamilton, H.A. and Chaput, J.‐P. (2018), Use of socia media is associated with short sleep duration in a dose– response manner in students aged 11 to 20 years. Acta Paediatr, 107: 694-700. 2

Scott, H., Biello, S., & Woods, H. (2019, September 01). Social media use and adolescent sleep patterns: Cross-sectional findings from the UK millennium cohort study. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from

Cover photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash