Examining sleep and media use
We are often told that media use before bed is bad for us. The problem is that we don’t have a lot of good data to support this claim. Many studies previously looking at this use unreliable measurements of both sleep and media use and don’t pay attention to specific characteristics of media use and content. A new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research set out to correct these mistakes and examine more precisely how sleep is influenced by watching movies, TV or YouTube videos, browsing the internet, or listening to music before bed.
The study included 58 adults and instructed them to keep a “media diary” that recorded time spent with media before bed, location of use (in bed or outside of it), and multitasking (doing something else while consuming media). Electroencephalography (EEG) tests that detect electrical activity of the brain were then used to capture parameters such as bedtime, total sleep time, and the per cent of time spent in deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Researchers monitored the participants for 3 nights.
Some media use before bed is beneficial for sleep!
The study showed that media use before bed was associated with an earlier bedtime and also with more sleep. But this was true only when there was no multitasking and when the media consumption happened in bed and was short. Plus, media use in the hour before falling asleep was associated overall with an earlier bedtime.
This beneficial effect was diminished by multitasking or media use outside of the bed and was negated the longer the media session lasted. The longer the media consumption lasted, the later the bedtime and the shorter the sleep time.
Sleep quality defined by time spent in deep and REM sleep phases was unaffected by media use before bed. Overall, researchers concluded that bedtime media use might not be as detrimental for sleep as some previous research has shown.
“If you are going to use media, like watching TV or listening to music, before bed, keep it a short, focused session and you are unlikely to experience any negative outcomes in your sleep that night,” said lead author Morgan Ellithorpe, PhD, of the University of Delaware.