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Stop Checking Cell Phones at Night, Researchers Report

Update Date: Jan 25, 2014 10:46 PM EST

With so many different kinds of media screens available, more and more hours are spent in front of these devices. Several studies have examined the potential effects these hours have on adults and children's sleeping behavior and they have found that screens can greatly disrupt good quality sleep. In a new study, researchers shifted the focus from sleep to working ability. They concluded that people who check their work emails at night could end up hurting their ability to work the following morning.

"Smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep," explained Russell E. Johnson, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State's Broad College of Business reported by Forbes. "Because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep."

For their research, the team of business school professors conducted two studies. In the first one, they gave two surveys per day for 10 straight workdays to 82 upper-level managers. The managers were participating in weekend M.B.A. programs. In the second study, the researchers also gave out two surveys per day for 10 consecutive workdays. The sample size in this study was 161 and the participants held varying job titles, such as paralegals and retail clerks. The second study also compared smartphone use to other screens such as televisions and laptops.

Based from the survey answers, the researchers concluded that people who used their smartphones at night after nine in order to answer work emails or do actual work are less likely to get good sleep. The smartphone use greatly affected the people's energy levels the morning after, which could hinder their working abilities. The researchers also found that smartphones appeared to have a greater effect on people's energy levels and sleeping abilities in comparison to the other screens. The researchers reasoned that it could be because of the phones' blue light, which is often considered to be the most disrupting kind of light.

"So it can be a double-edged sword," Johnson stated according to the university's news release. "The nighttime use of smartphones appears to have both psychological and physiological effects on people's ability to sleep and on sleep's essential recovery functions."

The researchers acknowledged the fact that putting off work could also yield negative consequences. They recommend that people attempt to get as much sleep as they can throughout the week. The study was published in the journal, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

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