Study Reveals 87% Of Brits Look At Phone Before Bed, But What’s The Cost?

Picture this: You’re winding down for the night and decide it’s probably time for bed so you reach for your phone for a quick scroll before drifting off. But what begins as a harmless activity soon becomes an hour-long distraction, leaving your eyes strained and your mind restless. The realisation sets in that you’ve sacrificed precious sleep time, setting the stage for a groggy morning ahead. Sound familiar?

Chances are, the answer to this question is yes. According to a recent YouGov study on sleep, 87% of Britons say they look at their phone or tablet within an hour before bedtime. Indeed, for most of us, this ritual of a nightly scroll has become an ingrained habit.

But what are the consequences of this pattern? For all the joys that our devices afford us, daily reliance on them has brought undeniable problems. However, the detrimental effects of screen time before bed are particularly pronounced. It’s time to delve into why this is the case and explore strategies for breaking free from this nocturnal routine.

What Keeps Us Reaching for That Nightly Scroll?

Indeed, a staggering 87% of Britons admitted to looking at their phone or tablet within an hour before going to bed, as revealed by the recent YouGov survey. Moreover, 25% also owned up to looking at their phone immediately before going to sleep, while a significant 74% acknowledged keeping their phones within arm’s reach in the bedroom throughout the night.

These statistics paint a concerning picture. While our reliance on devices has understandably become an essential part of our daily routines – from work to social interactions to entertainment – using them as a pre-sleep activity and even as a sleep aid seems excessive, even counterproductive. And yet, so many of us succumb to this practice. But why?

The answer lies, of course, in the addictive nature of today’s devices. Phones and other tablets have been designed to keep us reaching back for more. Particularly in the case of social media, platforms employ endless streams of content and autoplay features to exploit our innate craving for stimulation, ensuring it remains insatiably fed.

Thanks to innate human features including our curiosity, desire to socialise, and need to form habits and create daily patterns coupled with the gratifying rush of dopamine we receive from technology, humans and their devices have become an inseparable partnership. But what is the cost of this alliance?

From Screen to Slumber: The Hidden Toll

While the study demonstrates a prevalent habit among UK residents of using their phones before bedtime, this is, unfortunately, a trend that is mirrored globally.

Exploding Topics reports that as of 2024, 47% of Americans admit to checking their devices an average of 352 times daily. And the figures get even more staggering. 71% admit to prioritising phone time over romantic relationships, and 44% experience anxiety when separated from their phones.

Indeed, a dependency on our devices appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. But with most of the world struggling to do without their digital nightcap, what’s the cost of this nocturnal habit?

Brown’s CBD experts emphasise some negative effects of late-night screen exposure on sleep, mood, and overall health. According to the experts, two of the primary side effects include:

  • Sleep Disruption: Late-night screen exposure disrupts sleep patterns due to the blue light emitted by electronic devices, which suppresses melatonin production, leading to difficulty falling asleep and daytime fatigue, often referred to as ‘brain fog.’
  • Poor Physical Health: Sleep deprivation has been linked to a myriad of physical health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. Poor sleep quality is also known to negatively impact hormones that regulate everything from blood sugar to appetite.
  • Mental Health: Though not directly addressing late-night scrolling, recent studies have hinted at a connection between depression and extended screen exposure, particularly among adolescents.

Without moderation and mindfulness, excessive screen time before bed can exacerbate these negative effects. Practising habits to disconnect from devices is thus crucial to safeguarding mental health and overall well-being.

Tips For Unplugging Before Bed

We may not all readily admit it, but most of us could probably benefit from taking a digital detox. Proactively reducing screen time, even disconnecting entirely, can redirect focus to other life aspects and bolster mental well-being – a practice known as taking a digital detox. Though beneficial throughout the day, cutting down on screen time at night may offer the most noticeable mental and physical health benefits.

So, no need to stress over the numerous drawbacks associated with late-night screen use as there are several strategies to help you resist the urge to reach for your phone before bedtime, allowing you to unplug and reset for the following day.

1. Turn Off Notifications

Turning off notifications is a simple yet effective method to prevent those late-night scrolling sessions.

Even seemingly innocent alerts like weather notifications can be distracting. As soon as you hear that ping, checking the weather can soon become a half-an-hour look at social media. So, it may be worthwhile to go cold turkey on all alerts to prevent you from reaching for your phone at night.

2. Time For a Digital Declutter

Are there specific apps that keep you up at night and always end up tempting you into late-night scrolling? It may well be time for a digital declutter.

Consider removing apps you frequently use but wish to take a break from. Once you’ve established a better nighttime routine, you may be able to re-download these later down the line but, for now, deleting these apps can limit the platforms you endlessly flick between and can reduce the need to reach for your device when you should be winding down for bed.

3. Use Blocking Apps

Once you’ve cleared out the apps that keep your eyes glued to the screen, consider downloading apps that help you carve out tech-free hours before bedtime.

These apps restrict device access during specific periods, helping to curb late-night screen time. Alternatively, activate features like ‘sleep mode’ or enable aeroplane mode to minimise phone usage.

4. Establish a Bedtime Routine 

By always reaching for your phone before bed, you may have unconsciously made a habit of needing a digital nightcap. If this is the case, then it’s time to change the narrative.

Swap that late-night screen time with a consistent bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time for rest. Activities such as reading, listening to music, taking a bath, or practising meditation can help you unwind and prepare you for sleep.

5. Get An Alarm Clock 

Devices having a built-in alarm clock are doubtless a useful feature. However, this convenience may lead to using the phone right before bedtime to set an alarm and first thing in the morning to turn it off.

As established, neither initiating nor concluding your day by staring at a screen is an ideal practice. So, break the habit of relying on your phone for bedtime and wake-up routines by using a traditional alarm clock.

This allows you to charge your phone outside the bedroom which can subsequently remove it as a distraction and encourage a mindful start and end to the day.