Research: Nighttime Smartphone Use Does Major Effects On Young Adults' Mental Health

Research: Nighttime Smartphone Use Does Major Effects On Young Adults' Mental Health

Mental health issues are well-acknowledged as a primary cause of disease, and a significant number of adults suffer from them. In many Western nations, there has been an upsurge in poor mental health, particularly among young adults, in recent decades. During this time, developments in smartphone technology have grown more widely available, resulting in widespread and round-the-clock smartphone use, particularly among younger generations. The apparent correlation between increased smartphone use and poor mental health in Western nations calls attention to excessive smartphone use as a possible risk factor for poor mental health. In particular, frequent smartphone use at night may disrupt sleep and negatively impact mental health. Light-emitting electronic gadgets are likely to induce cognitive arousal and delay the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, influencing both sleep onset latency and sleep perceptions. Long-term sleep disruptions have been proven to affect mental restitution and mood, and various studies have found that poor sleep plays a crucial etiological role in the development of poor mental health through altering emotional regulation and neuro-biological interaction. Poor sleep quality has been proven to alter or increase feelings of perceived stress, which can lead to depressive symptoms over time.

Furthermore, sleep loss may impair daily functioning as well as the ability and energy to engage in meaningful activities, affecting overall life satisfaction and emotions of social connection. While sleep disruption from technology use is unlikely to play a significant role in the aetiology of severe mental disorders requiring long-term treatment, researchers believe that general mental wellbeing, such as stress perceptions, life satisfaction, depressive symptoms, and feelings of social isolation, may be impacted. In a previous study, they found that 81 per cent of men and 88 per cent of women aged 16–25 years reported using their smartphone before falling asleep a few times a week or more, and one-third reported using their smartphone during the sleep period, using data from a population-based citizen science sample of 24,856 Danish adults. They also discovered that, compared to other smartphone behaviours, phone use during sleep had the highest link to poor sleep, suggesting that this behaviour could be a risk factor for poor mental health.

Participants who had more than three nights of less than 6 hours of sleep due to smartphone use were more likely to be female and rated higher on the extroversion personality trait on average than those who had fewer nights with smartphone use. Over a four-month follow-up period, there were no clear connections between smartphone interrupted sleep and changes in felt stress, loneliness, or life satisfaction. In contrast to our hypothesis, using a smartphone at night for more than three nights was related to a slight reduction in depressive symptoms from baseline to follow-up compared to those who did not use a smartphone at night. Sending and receiving calls and texts after lights out, as well as being woken by phone use, were linked to the worse mood in an Australian cross-sectional study of 397 adults. Similarly, a Swedish study of 4156 young adults (ages 20–24) discovered links between self-reported nighttime phone awakenings and stress and depressive symptoms. The findings do not support the prevalent hypothesis that nighttime smartphone use is just a strong risk factor for poor mental health in adults, and they underscore the difficulty of teasing out causal inference in the area of nightly smartphone use, sleep, and mental health because these factors are highly interconnected.

An American cross-sectional study of 308 frequent smartphone users found that anxiety was linked to consumer-based smartphone use (e.g., news consumption, entertainment, relaxation), not social smartphone use. This emphasises the necessity of assessing the nature and content of smartphone engagement as distinct activities with potentially disparate mental health repercussions. To study the mental health implications of smartphone activities, future studies should consider a larger variety of nocturnal smartphone activities (screen use, passive usage, active usage). Only smartphone behaviours that indicated that the person was awake throughout their self-reported sleep period were included, such as only receiving incoming calls and not simply incoming calls. Even yet, it's difficult to say whether the participants' sleep was disrupted by the incoming call or if they were already awake owing to previous sleep issues that may have impacted their mental health before the study. In a previous study, they discovered that mental health was significant for daily smartphone communication and social engagement in the same study sample (limited to first-year students).

It should be emphasised that the exposure group that spent the majority of their nights with their smartphones only had 45 participants, therefore results from this group should be regarded with caution. Furthermore, because researchers did not have information on the participants' bedtimes on weekends, they were only able to assess sleep interruptions during the week. Nighttime smartphone use was not highly connected with poor mental health, contrary to popular belief, probably because smartphone use is also a social phenomenon with positive mental health impacts. To corroborate these findings, more research is needed, ideally with designs that discriminate between nightly social and consumption-related smartphone use. 

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