Smartphones help distract teens from bad thoughts before sleep, study finds

Smartphones help distract teens from bad thoughts before sleep, study finds

Smartphones help distract teens from bad thoughts before sleep, study finds

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Overuse of mobile devices has a bad reputation, according to new research from Flinders University, but one benefit could be their ability to provide a distraction and improve sleep capacity in teens. Feedback from over 600 teenagers aged 12 to 18 at schools in South Australia between June and September 2019 led the international research group to provide a more nuanced view of how the wide range of mobile content is used, including Youtube, music apps, Instagram and Snapchat — before kids go to bed.


“Many teenagers struggle with a racing mind when sleep isn’t easy,” said corresponding lead author Dr. Serena Bauducco, a visiting postdoctoral researcher from Orebro University, Sweden.

“This study shows that many adolescents use technology to distract themselves from negative thoughts, which may help them manage the process of falling asleep. Thus, distraction may be a mechanism for how sleep affects technology use. , rather than the other way around,” the study concludes.

The majority of 631 teens surveyed used technology to distract themselves from negative or distressing thoughts, with 23.6% answering “yes” and 38.4% “sometimes”, according to the study published in the journal Sleep Advances (Oxford Academic) .

However, the study found a higher tendency to use the apps among young people with existing sleep problems compared to those who do not report a sleep problem, leading the researchers to warn that other solutions are needed to help teenagers fall asleep.

Passive entertainment, via music apps or Youtube music videos, or interacting with peers via Instagram or Snapchat were seen as the most popular distractions.

The first author of the study, Ms Alexandra Daniels, a psychology graduate from Flinders University, explains that the complex relationship between sleep and technology is illustrated by the tendency of some adolescents with sleep problems to use more frequently devices before going to bed.

“This study helps provide evidence to suggest that the relationship between adolescents, technology, and sleep is much more complex than the previously accepted idea that technology use prior to falling asleep is always negative and harmful,” she said.

South Australian child and adolescent sleep expert Professor Michael Gradisar, who devised the idea behind the study, says research suggests recommendations for targeted use of certain apps could become an integral part of routines of sleep of some teenagers, to help them regulate their negative thoughts. .

Professor Gradisar, a sleep psychology graduate from Flinders University, who now focuses on a range of technologies as head of sleep science at Sleep Cycle in Sweden, says good sleep habits from infancy through adolescence are important for establishing healthy sleep routines into adulthood.

Respondents in the study were asked which app was likely to distract them from any negative or distressing thoughts – messaging, phone calls, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Youtube, Reddit, Tumblr and Spotify/iTunes/Apple Music, Netflix/Stan, Viber/WhatsApp, game app, audiobook or “other”.

Respondents reported multiple technology preferences, including mobile phone, iPad, laptop, desktop computer, iPod/MP3 player, TV, game console, or “other.”

Researchers note the recent surge in popularity of TikTok and other apps in a rapidly evolving field.

A previous study in Sleep Medicine by Flinders University researchers found that high school students’ use of phones, laptops, and game consoles in the hour before bedtime, or in bed before bedtime. sleep onset, was associated with an increased likelihood of sleep deprivation during school nights.

“Party technology use should be monitored for achievable limits and minimization of harm, as technology will remain an integral part of teen parties,” they conclude.

The National Sleep Foundations recommends teens ages 14 to 17 get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.

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