Smartphones and Sleep: This Generation’s Boogeyman


With nearly 75% of teens possessing their own smartphone, it seems trivial to consider decreasing the time spent on one’s device. A main source of communication and sociability as well as a mechanism for accessing the internet and homework assignments, a high school student’s smartphone can be thought of as a reliable tool. However, the connection between smartphone usage and lack of sleep is a prominent and pressing issue that needs to be addressed.

The usage of screens in the hours before bedtime exposes the brain to blue light, a wavelength that alters one’s melatonin levels (the hormones that affect the sleep cycle). Suppressed melatonin makes it harder for adolescents to fall asleep and sleep restfully. It is recommended that in order for a full night’s sleep, all screens; including TVs, smartphones, and tablets; be turned off.

High school students are advised to get at least nine hours of sleep per night, a number that may not seem realistic to the average student who is busy with homework and extracurriculars. However, these restful minutes are crucial to one’s mental and physical health. When a teenager is sleep deprived it often is noticeable through their mood, academic performance, and cognitive ability.

At Corvallis High School, the constant hustle and energy of students around campus can be misleading. With loads of homework stacked on top of sports, music, and social activities, it is safe to say that the majority of enrollees are fueled by early morning Dutch Bros runs. A High-O-Scope case study examining the phone usage habits of four CHS students tracked their average sleep per night. After the results of the four students (all female, one from each grade) came in, it revealed that the average sleep recorded per night over the course of a week was only about seven hours. In comparison to the nine recommended hours, this number seems almost comical. However, lack of sleep in teens is not without reason: the correlation between smartphones and sleep is crystal clear.  

The same students who tracked their sleep over the course of the week were asked to download an app which records how many minutes are spent on the individual’s smartphone each day (those with iPhones downloaded Moment while those with Androids downloaded Quality Time). Between the four students surveyed, the average daily “phone time” was 222 minutes— almost four hours! Those students who used their phone for more than three hours a day were significantly less likely to be getting a restful night’s sleep, while those who only used their phone for two and a half hours or less were getting an average of eight and a half hours of sleep each night. It was found that in particular, one student who used her phone for an average of almost seven hours a day was likely to get two less hours of sleep each night than one who was on her phone for only two hours.

Students looking for a better night’s sleep may want to attempt limiting their screen time during the day, even if only by half an hour. This can be accomplished by simply eliminating that Twitter check during lunch break or choosing not to scroll through your Instagram feed one more time before bed. It may be surprising to see how much easier sleep comes!

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