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Sleep quality may not be affected by media use before bed, study finds

When consumers don’t go overboard with screens before bed, their sleep likely won’t be affected

Mother and daughter watching tablet before bed
Photo (c) FG Trade - Getty Images
Many studies have looked at how screen time may disrupt consumers’ sleep, and now a new study has explored how using different forms of media may affect sleep quality

While watching movies, listening to music, or watching TV can affect the duration of consumers’ sleep, the study findings show that overall quality of sleep wasn’t disrupted by using media before bed.

 “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 researcher Morgan Ellithorpe, Ph.D. 

How media affects sleep quality 

The researchers had nearly 60 adults keep a diary for the duration of the study that had them track what kinds of media they were using before bed, where they were using it, and whether or not they were multitasking while using media. The team then measured the participants' sleep quality with electroencephalography tests that tracked when they fell asleep, their sleep quality, and how long they slept. 

The researchers identified different patterns when it came to how the participants used media before bed and how it affected their sleep. Overall, sleep quality wasn’t significantly affected by using different types of media before bed. 

Avoiding multitasking and using media while in bed were linked with longer sleep for the participants. Additionally, the group was more likely to fall asleep earlier when using media in the hour before bedtime. On the other hand, when participants spent extended time using media before bed, they weren’t likely to get as much sleep.

“The findings present a complex picture, where media use before bed appears to be less detrimental for sleep than suggested by other research – as long as that use is not accompanied by multitasking, is conducted in bed, and the session is short,” the researchers wrote. “This has implications for research on sleep and traditional media use and points to the likelihood that there is more nuance to the issue of media use before bed than previously assumed.” 

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