Smartphone ‘blue light’ sucks the sleep out of users News added by Benefits Pro on January 30, 2014

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By Dan Cook

Spending a lot of time fixating on data from smartphones is the new normal, especially in the business world. And it may be robbing millions of smart phone users of untold hours of sound sleep.

A team of researchers from the University of Florida, Michigan State University and the University of Washington surveyed 82 mid- to high-level managers to gauge the affects of their constant exposure to smartphones on their sleep.

Following up on this, the same academics tested their hypothesis on 161 employees from a variety of industries. What they found was that people who kept their smartphones next to them during the night didn't sleep very well and that lack of sleep may have made them less effective at work the next day.

“Smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep,” said Russell Johnson, MSU assistant professor of management who was among the researchers behind the study.

In its website story on the study's results, the U of M noted that more than half of adults in the U.S. own smartphones and cited research that suggests just “40 percent of Americans get enough sleep on most nights and (that) a commonly cited reason is smartphone usage for work.”

In light of these two stats, the researchers concluded that a growing body of smartphone owners who are never far from their phones are likely to drive that 40 percent much higher.

What is it about the nighttime proximity to their smartphones that deprives folks of their rest?

One element is that people don't disengage properly from work when they're tethered to their phones. But another factor could be “blue light.”

“In addition to keeping people mentally engaged at night, smartphones emit 'blue light' that seems to be the most disruptive of all colors of light. Blue light is known to hinder melatonin, a chemical in the body that promotes sleep,” the study said.

Not only does this lack of sleep lead to sub-par work performance the next day, but it also contributes to increased deviant and unethical behavior on the part of these sleepwalkers.

“So it can be a double-edged sword,” Johnson said. “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.”

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