Sleep is critical for good mental health. An out of whack sleep cycle can quickly lead to the development and worsening of symptoms across mental health diagnoses including bipolar and unipolar depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
It’s no surprise, then, that many mental health professionals find themselves discussing things like sleep habits and hygiene with patients who are looking to manage their symptoms and recover from debilitating mental health setbacks. Sleep can be a first line of defense against a relapse or episode.
The body of smartphone research has been steadily growing as iPhones and Androids have become the new normal for cellular phone devices. A new study has investigated the impacts of smartphone use in bed as well as what happened when participants left their phones in another room while they slept.
The results are relevant to therapists who work with patients on sleep habits and hygiene, and may be useful in making the case for a device-free bedtime.
Participants in the study, which will appear in the August issue of Computers in Human Behavior, reported that when they left their smartphones in another room at bedtime they slept better and longer, enjoyed better relationships, wasted less time, and felt more calm.
Participants were asked to describe what changes, if any, they observed in themselves as a result of leaving their smartphones outside of the bedroom. They said that they slept better and longer, experienced improvements in their personal relationships, wasted less time, and focused more on other activities aside from scrolling through social media, browsing the web, or emailing. They also reported feeling increased feelings of peace and calm.
The reported results make a strong case for those who struggle with not only getting enough sleep but also with interpersonal relationships, productivity, and even stress. The findings were encouraging, providing a clear picture of the positive impacts of ditching the phone at bedtime.
Quality of Life
Results of the study also showed that restricting smartphone use in the bedroom increased levels of subjective happiness and quality of life. In other words, people felt better. There was also a negative relationship between restricting bedroom smartphone use and the risk of developing smartphone addiction, a newly established disorder that has gained the interest of researchers in the field.
Clients may struggle to leave their smartphones outside of the bedroom at night. Clinicians should be prepared for clients to object to the idea for any number of reasons. Some might be concerned that they will miss a call from a loved one or relative.
In this case, you might suggest that they put the ringer on loud enough that they will hear it and wake from the other room.
Patients can also be concerned if they rely on their phone alarm to wake them up in the morning. They can always buy an alarm clock.
They may also struggle with the idea of changing their routine if they are used to scrolling through social media or watching YouTube before bed. You might try to help them come up with some alternatives that may even help them get a better night’s sleep.
Finally, if patients feel excessively anxious without their phone, they may be struggling with nomophobia, or irrational fear of being without their phone—which could make leaving the phone outside of the bedroom particularly beneficial.
Further research should be conducted to investigate other areas of well-being that may be impacted by bedroom smartphone use. Sleep quality and partner satisfaction are two areas that are likely to be affected, but there is no evidence to support this theory yet.