With an epidemic of social media and over-usage of mobile phones across the country, it seems to me that it is hardly surprising that this over-use may ultimately have a negative effect on our health. According to the latest study in The Lancet Psychiatry, mobile phones and internet overuse late at night directly correlates with disrupted sleep, depression, and unhappiness.
The study showed that people who spend the night checking social media, watching television or roaming the house statistically have a greater chance of suffering from mood problems such as neuroticism and bipolar disorder. Moreover, these individuals were also shown to be less happy and lonely.
Whilst disruption of a body’s natural clock-cycle has not been proven as the over-arching reason for depression and disrupted sleep, the paper claims that “daylight is time for activity and darkness is time for sleep.”
The research was conducted using wearable monitors in order to carry out its large-scale measuring of individual’s body clock disruptions. It compared data from 91 105 participants with accelerometery data collected between 2013 and 2015. These individuals were middle-aged and had their circadian (24 hour cycle) rhythms graded and daily routines observed. Around 1 in 25 people did not have a healthy pattern, showing that their activities during the day were not dissimilar from the night. These were “people who have very poor sleep hygiene, people on their mobile phones at midnight checking Facebook or getting up to make a cup of tea in the middle of the night,” Daniel Smith, senior author of the paper and professor from the University of Glasgow, said. These individuals were 6 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 11 percent more likely to have bipolar disorder and scored their own happiness 9 percent lower.
The paper ultimately asserts that “circadian disruption is reliably associated with various adverse mental health and wellbeing outcomes, including major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. Lower relative amplitude might be linked to increased susceptibility to mood disorders.”
Smith also commented, “everyone who has ever stepped off a long-haul flight or had children knows that even a couple of nights’ poor sleep can be pretty bad for your mood and thinking ability. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say this is another piece of evidence that might suggest we should all be more mindful of our natural rhythms of activity and rest.”
It was advised that adults should turn off their electronics and begin to wind down at around 10pm, although it was also warned that, “It’s not just what you do at night, it’s what you do during the day — trying to be active during the day and inactive in darkness. Especially in the winter, making sure you get out in the morning in the fresh air is just as important in getting a good night’s sleep as not being on your mobile phone.”
“Benjamin Franklin said that ‘early to bed and early to rise makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise’. There’s a lot of truth in that.”
“I think this is important as a population health issue because so many of us are living with disrupted circadian rhythms . . . It’s unlikely that the way society is currently set up is good for your health. So many people are living in city environments flooded with light 24/7.”