Image: Shutterstock/Tero Vesalainen

Survey findings:

  • Over 40% of people say the last thing they do before bed is use their phone.
  • 78% of people say they want more sleep but don’t end their phone usage before the thirty minute minimum recommended window before bed time.
  • 18-24 year olds are over 2x as likely to use their phones in bed while trying to fall asleep than older demographics.

According to the CDC, at least 1/3rd of adults don’t get enough sleep to the point that it is negatively affecting their health. Currently, only 10% of Americans report prioritizing getting a good night’s sleep over things like work or their favorite hobbies.This trend is expanding, as sleep takes a back seat to the growing normalcy of having busy lives.

One rapidly growing trend contributing to these worse nights of sleep is the use of smartphones right before bedtime. It’s not uncommon anymore to conduct any number of last minute tasks including checking work email one last time, catching up on the day’s news, browsing social media, playing games, or texting with friends before we try and fall asleep.

In order to combat this growing trend, it is recommended that people put their phones down at least thirty minutes, and ideally an hour, before bed. But how many people follow this guidance?

We conducted a study of 889 adults living in the United States to get a picture of how many people are still using their phones while trying to fall asleep and the results were shocking.

  • 40% of people say the last thing they do before trying to fall asleep is use their phone.
  • Only 22% of people say they follow health professional guidance on putting their phone away an hour or more before going to bed.
  • 46% of women and 33% of men say they use their phones in bed while trying to sleep. 
  • Of all demographics, younger people, especially young women, are the most likely to use their phones in bed, with over 56% of those age 18-24 responding they use their phone for a substantial amount of time before trying to fall asleep.

Outside of the downsides of staring at a blue light before bed, one other major reason phone use before bed can cause a worse night sleep is that engaging with psychologically stimulating content activates our brain in ways that keeps us awake. The more we read news in bed, or open a work email, or play a game, the more time our brains spend activated instead of starting to shut down in order to fall asleep.

For those looking for recommendations on how to decrease the amount of time they use their phone before bed, experts say it is about reworking a bad habit instead of going cold turkey. Rather than making drastic changes, make them gradual. Start by putting your phone away five, ten, or fifteen minutes before bed. Working your way up to the recommended one hour will come with practice, and it is easier to keep a good habit when it is built with practice.

Another recommendation is to leave your phone out of the bedroom in the evening. Charging it in another room where it won’t tempt you while you’re getting ready to fall asleep can help remove the impulse to pick it up one last time before bed. This also helps in the morning, preventing the immediate use of a phone to engage in overly stimulating activities while our brains adjust to the new day.

The key is giving the brain time to relax before trying to fall asleep, and removing one of the most stimulating pieces of technology before bedtime can help assist with this process.