Background: Smartphones are increasingly integrated into everyday life, but frequency of use has not yet been objectively measured and compared to demographics, health information, and in particular, sleep quality.
Aims: The aim of this study was to characterize smartphone use by measuring screen-time directly, determine factors that are associated with increased screen-time, and to test the hypothesis that increased screen-time is associated with poor sleep.
Methods: We performed a cross-sectional analysis in a subset of 653 participants enrolled in the Health eHeart Study, an internet-based longitudinal cohort study open to any interested adult (≥ 18 years). Smartphone screen-time (the number of minutes in each hour the screen was on) was measured continuously via smartphone application. For each participant, total and average screen-time were computed over 30-day windows. Average screen-time specifically during self-reported bedtime hours and sleeping period was also computed. Demographics, medical information, and sleep habits (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index-PSQI) were obtained by survey. Linear regression was used to obtain effect estimates.
Results: Total screen-time over 30 days was a median 38.4 hours (IQR 21.4 to 61.3) and average screen-time over 30 days was a median 3.7 minutes per hour (IQR 2.2 to 5.5). Younger age, self-reported race/ethnicity of Black and "Other" were associated with longer average screen-time after adjustment for potential confounders. Longer average screen-time was associated with shorter sleep duration and worse sleep-efficiency. Longer average screen-times during bedtime and the sleeping period were associated with poor sleep quality, decreased sleep efficiency, and longer sleep onset latency.
Conclusions: These findings on actual smartphone screen-time build upon prior work based on self-report and confirm that adults spend a substantial amount of time using their smartphones. Screen-time differs across age and race, but is similar across socio-economic strata suggesting that cultural factors may drive smartphone use. Screen-time is associated with poor sleep. These findings cannot support conclusions on causation. Effect-cause remains a possibility: poor sleep may lead to increased screen-time. However, exposure to smartphone screens, particularly around bedtime, may negatively impact sleep.