Monday, February 24, 2014

Smartphones hurting our ability to sleep and work

An article from the Wall Street Journal discusses how smartphones make us tired which can both hurt our ability to sleep at night and to be productive during the day.

For a productive day at work tomorrow, give the smartphone a rest tonight.
Reading and sending work email on a smartphone late into the evening doesn’t just make it harder to get a decent night’s sleep. New research findings show it also exhausts workers by morning and leaves them disengaged by the next afternoon.
That means the way most knowledge workers do their jobs—monitoring their iPhones for notes from the boss long after the office day is done and responding to colleagues at all hours—ultimately makes them less effective, posit researchers from University of Florida, Michigan State University and University of Washington.
The scholars conducted two studies of workers’ nighttime technology habits, sleep duration and quality, energy and workplace engagement. In the first study, 82 mid- to high-level managers were asked every morning how many minutes they used their smartphone after 9:00 pm the night before and how many hours they slept. Then, they were asked to rate their agreement with statements like “I feel drained” and “Right now, it would take a lot of effort for me to concentrate on something.”
In the afternoon, they had to assess statements about work engagement, such as “Today while working, I forgot everything else around me.”
Prior studies have shown that staying focused and resisting distractions takes a lot of effort, so when smartphone use interferes with sleep, it takes a toll the next day.
“The benefit of smartphone use may…be offset by the inability of employees to fully recover from work activities while away from the office,” the researchers write.
After accounting for sleep quality, the researchers found that work-related smartphone use in the evening was associated with fewer hours of sleep. The subjects who recorded shorter nights also reported depleted reserves of self-control, and those who felt morning exhaustion also indicated they were less engaged during the day, a domino effect that shows how an unending workday ultimately leads to poorer work.
The second study, which involved 161 workers, measured how late-night tech use—on smartphones, laptops, tablets and TV—can disrupt sleep and next-day work engagement.
In her book, “Sleeping With Your Smartphone,” Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow studied executives at Boston Consulting Group who were given a chance to disconnect on a regular basis. The executives became more excited about their work, felt more satisfied about their professional and personal lives and even became more collaborative and efficient.
Using any kind of electronic device affects sleep quantity and focus the following day, but smartphones are especially draining. That’s partly because the always-on, always-handy phone the first device we turn to, says Christopher M. Barnes, an assistant professor of management at University of Washington’s Michael G. Foster School of Business and a co-author of the paper. Having a screen so close to our faces probably doesn’t help us prepare for sleep, he adds.
The researchers don’t yet know if there’s a particular threshold at which smartphone use begins to affect sleep habits, but even 30 minutes before bedtime can take a toll, Barnes says.
The fix, researchers say, is to put down the phone and enjoy the evening. But that’s easier said than done, so long as managers send emails at 10:30 p.m. and expect responses by 10:31 pm. Barnes says real change will have to come from the top, with managers setting an example by not sending those messages in the first place, or at least toning down expectations on response time.
Read more here

No comments: