New Directions in the Link Between Technology Use and Sleep in Young People

  • Kate Bartel
  • Michael Gradisar


Young people have an affinity for technological devices. Several reviews of more than 70 studies over the past 15 years have shown consistent links between young people’s use of technology and sleep. This has led the scientific and general communities to deduce that using technology before bed worsens sleep. However, the majority of studies performed have been correlational in nature, making causal inferences difficult. This chapter focuses on two important questions of “how” and “how much” technology use affects sleep. The former question details primarily experimental studies that have tested potential mechanisms, including technology use inducing physiological arousal, displacing bedtime, or screenlight disturbing sleep and circadian rhythms. While the latter question appears straightforward, new meta-analytic results suggest it is not. Furthermore, new studies are identifying important moderators for the link between technology use and sleep. Finally, we consider the reverse relationship – the possibility of technology use increasing in response to difficulty sleeping. Our chapter concludes with a research agenda that does not necessarily point the finger at technology use as the reason why so many young people are sleeping too late and too little.


Technology use Sleep Adolescents Arousal Screenlight Displacement Bedtimes 


  1. 1.
    Isaacson W. Steve jobs. London: Little Brown; 2011.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Slatalla M. Computing; parents’ dilemma: a child’s own PC? The New York Times, 1998. Retrieved from: on 23 Aug 2015.
  3. 3.
    Adams SK, Kisler TS. Sleep quality as a mediator between technology-related sleep quality, depression and anxiety. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2013;16:25–30.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Munezawa T, Kaneita Y, Osaki Y, Kanda H, Minowa M, Suzuki K, Higuchi S, Mori J, Yamamoto OT. The association between use of mobile phones after lights out and sleep disturbances among Japanese adolescents: a nationwide cross-sectional survey. Sleep. 2011;34:1013–20.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    National Sleep Foundation. Sleep in America poll, communications technology in the bedroom: summary of findings. Washington, DC: National Sleep Foundation; 2011. p. 2011.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Van den Bulck J. Adolescent use of mobile phones for calling and for sending text messages after lights out: results from a prospective cohort study with a one-year follow-up. Sleep. 2007;30:1220–3.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hughes N. Apple spent record $1.7B on research & development last quarter, $6B in fiscal 2014. Appleinsider, 2014.Retrieved from: on 23 Aug 2015.
  8. 8.
    Casey M, Hackett R. The 10 biggest R&D spenders worldwide. Fortune, 2014. Retrieved from: 23 Aug 2015.
  9. 9.
    Van den Bulck J. The effects of media on sleep. Adolesc Med State Art Rev. 2010;21:418–29.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Cain N, Gradisar M. Electronic media use and sleep in school-aged children and adolescents: a review. Sleep Med. 2010;11:735–42.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gradisar M, Short MA. Sleep hygiene and environment: the role of technology. In: Wolfson AR, Montgomery-Downs HE, editors. The Oxford handbook of infant, child, and adolescent sleep and behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2013. p. 113.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hale L, Guan S. Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: a systematic review of the literature. Sleep Med Rev. 2015;21:50–8. Scholar
  13. 13.
    Van den Bulck J. Television viewing, computer game playing, and internet use and self-reported time in bed and time out of bed in secondary-school children. Sleep. 2004;27:101–4.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Higuchi S, Motohashi Y, Liu Y, Maeda A. Effects of playing a computer game using a bright display on presleep physiological variables, sleep latency, slow wave sleep and REM sleep. J Sleep Res. 2005;14:267–73.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Weaver E, Gradisar M, Dohnt H, Lovato N, Douglas P. The effect of presleep video-game playing on adolescent sleep. J Clin Sleep Med. 2010;6:184–9.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Freeman RR, Sattler HL. Physiological and psychological factors in sleep-onset insomnia. J Abnorm Psychol. 1982;91:380–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Loughran SP, Wood AW, Barton JM, Croft RJ, Thompson B, Stough C. The effect of electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones on human sleep. Neuroreport. 2005;16:1973–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wood AW, Loughran SP, Stough C. Does evening exposure to mobile phone radiation affect subsequent melatonin production? Int J Radition Biol. 2006;82:69–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ivarsson M, Anderson M, Akerstedt T, Lindblad F. Playing a violent television game affects heart rate variability. Acta Paediatr. 2009;98:166–72.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Ivarsson M, Anderson M, Akerstedt T, Lindblad F. The effect of violent and nonviolent video games on heart rate variability, sleep, and emotions in adolescents with different violent gaming habits. Psychosom Med. 2013;75:390–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    King DL, Gradisar M, Drummond A, Lovato N, Wessel J, Micic G, Douglas P, Delfabbro P. The impact of prolonged violent video-gaming on adolescent sleep: an experimental study. J Sleep Res. 2013;22:137–43.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Cajochen C, Frey S, Anders D, Spati J, Bues M, Pross A, Mager R, Wirz-Justice A, Stefani O. Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance. J Appl Physiol. 2011;110:1432–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Wood B, Rea MS, Plitnick B, Figuerio MG. Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Appl Ergon. 2013;44:237–40.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Heath M, Sutherland C, Bartel K, Gradisar M, Williamson P, Lovato N, Micic G. Does one hour of bright or short-wavelength filtered tablet screenlight have a meaningful effect on adolescents’ pre-bedtime alertness, sleep and daytime functioning? Chronobiol Int. 2014;31:496–505.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Van der Lely S, Frey S, Garbazza C, Wirz-Justice A, Jenni OG, Steiner R, Wolf S, Cajochen C, Bromundt V, Schmidt C. Blue blocker glasses as a countermeasure for alerting effects of evening light-emitting diode screen exposure in male teenagers. J Adolesc Health. 2015;56:113–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Gamble AL, D’Rozario AL, Bartlett DJ, Williams S, Bin YS, Grunstein RR, Marshall NS. Adolescent sleep patterns and night-time technology use: results of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s big sleep survey. PLoS ONE. 2014;9, e111700.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Chang A-M, Aeschbach D, Duffy JF, Czeisler CA. Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. PNAS. 2015;112:1232–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Reynolds CM, Gradisar M, Kar K, Perry A, Wolfe J, Short MA. Adolescents who perceive fewer consequences of risk-taking choose to switch off games later at night. Acta Paediatr. 2015;104:e222–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Smith LJ, Gradisar M, Short MA, King DJ. Intrinsic and extrinsic predictors between video gaming behavior and adolescent bedtimes. Sleep Med. In press.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Cumming G. Understanding the new statistics: effect sizes, confidence intervals, and meta-analysis. New York: Routledge; 2012.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Bartel KA, Gradisar M, Williamson P. Protective and risk factors for adolescent sleep: a meta-analytical review. Sleep Med Rev. 2015;21:72–85.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Eggermont S, van den Bulck J. Nodding off or switching off? The use of popular media as a sleep aid in secondary-school children. J Paediatr Child Health. 2006;42:428–33.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Tavernier R, Willoughby T. Sleep problems: predictor or outcome of media use among emerging adults. J Sleep Res. 2014. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12132.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Morin CM. Insomnia: psychological assessment and management. New York: Guilford Press; 1993.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Gradisar M, Wolfson AR, Harvey AG, Hale L, Rosenberg R, Czeisler CA. The sleep and technology use of Americans: findings from the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Sleep in America poll. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013;9:1291–9.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Short M, Gradisar M, Gill J, Camfferman D. Identifying adolescent sleep problems. PLoS ONE. 2013;8, e75301.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Danielsson NS, Harvey AG, MacDonald S, Jansson-Frojmark M, Linton SJ. Sleep disturbance and depressive symptoms in adolescence: the role of catastrophic worry. J Youth Adolesc. 2013;42:1223–33.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Hiller RM, Lovato N, Gradisar M, Oliver M, Slater A. Trying to fall asleep whilst catastrophising: what sleep-disordered adolescents think and feel. Sleep Med. 2014;15:96–103.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Stokes, K. Wired-up children need more sleep. The Advertiser, 2012. Retrieved from: on 23 Aug 2015.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations