Smartphones are an idea whose time has come. In Australia 65 per cent of people have a smartphone, this places them sixth in the world behind the first placed United Arab Emirates where 73 per cent of people own a smartphone. There is no doubt that these do-everything devices are useful but could they have a downside. Of course, like anything, the answer is “yes, they can”. As smartphones become ever more widely adopted the race is on among psychologists to understand what effects their use may have on the humans who provide transport for them. Lots of impacts will flow from the smartphone age but a recent study looked at how smartphone use might affect workers with some interesting results.

In their first study researchers had upper level managers complete multiple surveys every day for two weeks. In a second study they surveyed employees in occupations ranging through nursing, manufacturing, accountancy, and dentistry.

Both studies showed that using a smartphone at night for business purposes led to inadequate sleep and less energy in the office the next day. The second study also showed that smartphones had a larger negative effect than watching television or using a laptop computer.

The researchers say that as well as keeping people awake at night smartphones also emit blue light which is known to negatively impact melatonin, a hormone involved in sleep. Other research though has shown that light from laptop computers can also impact melatonin and sleep. In the end then, it might just be the sheer convenience of a smartphone that makes it more likely to be used for longer later at night. (As a footnote to that paragraph: does it amaze anyone that a laptop is now regarded as a cumbersome device?)

What it all amounts to for you out there seeking to climb the greasy pole at work is that staying up late at night answering emails or doing research on your smartphone may not be so productive after all. Sure, you can make noise about how late you worked last night, but your output the day after will be diminished. Maybe the devices should only be called phones, and the title “smartphone” should only be allocated accoroding to the person using it.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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