Use of Smartphones and Sleep Time

sleep and electronics. In particular, this research paper aims to explore the possible effects of screen time on sleep, based on experiences from participants in a survey. Prior to conducting the survey, the hypothesis was ‘more screen time equals less sleep time’. Surveys are a valid research method to help test hypotheses by collecting information in the form of responses from target populations. By asking if screen time (e.g., video games, computers, mobile devices, and television) affected sleep outcomes of teenagers aged 14-18, the research paper could discover a negative correlation between screen time and sleep time. The negative correlation supported the hypothesis that teenagers exposed to higher levels of screen time, would sleep fewer hours. The research paper includes an appendix with a survey and excel data results collected from participants at Stuyvesant High School.


Teenagers have access to a wide array of electronics. From televisions to smart phones, to computers, today’s youth are exposed to a host of devices that emit artificial light that may affect how much sleep they get. This research paper aims to explore the possible connection between screen time and sleep time. Specifically, the aim is to test the hypothesis: Does increased screen time have a negative effect on sleep time? A multi-question survey will be used to determine any possible effects screen time may have on the sleeping time of high-school aged teenagers.

The hypothesis was developed from a few key studies examining the effects of screen time on sleep. One study performed a literature review on 67 studies, discovering their outcomes. “We reviewed 67 studies published from 1999 to early 2014. We found that screen time is adversely associated with sleep outcomes (primarily shortened duration and delayed timing) in 90% of studies” (Hale & Guan, 2015, p. 50). The results suggest increased screen time has a negative effect on sleep time, by decreasing length of sleep and time in deep sleep. The study also provided a possible secondary negative effect from increased screen time, well-being. “Youth should be advised to limit or reduce screen time exposure, especially before or during bedtime hours to minimize any harmful effects of screen time on sleep and well-being” (Hale & Guan, 2015, p. 50). Because of lack of sleep can lead to a negative impact on a person’s well-being, screen time should be decreased before sleep.

The survey will be conducted based on a structure provided in a 2013 study on presleep activities. “Presleep activities have been implicated in the declining sleep duration of young people. The top 20 activities were grouped into 3 behavioral sets: screen sedentary time, nonscreen sedentary time, and self-care” (Foley et al., 2013, p. X9). The 3 behavioral sets will form the basis of the survey as well as offer direction towards what kind of questions to ask the participants. The study’s results were similar to previous article in that increased screen time led to decreased sleep time.

The study also remarked on the type of sleep onset and its effect on the degree of screen time experienced by participants. “…television watching was the most commonly reported activity, and screen sedentary time accounted for 30 minutes of the 90-minute presleep period. Participants with a later sleep onset had significantly greater engagement in screen time than those with an earlier sleep onset” (Foley et al., 2013, p. X9). Those with later sleep onset had more screen time. The questions of the survey will include the degree of sleepiness the participant feels before going to bed as this can provide additional information. Specifically, the correlation between later onset sleep and screen sedentary time. “Screen sedentary time dominated the presleep period in this sample and was associated with a later sleep onset. The development of interventions to reduce screen-based behaviors in the presleep period may promote earlier sleep onset and ultimately improved sleep duration” (Foley et al., 2013, p. X9).


Survey researchers typically limit themselves to face-to-face interviews and questionnaires (Seale, Gobo, Gubrium, & Silverman, 2007). This research paper uses the survey researcher method in order to collect information to refute or support the hypothesis. While a small sample cannot be used to determine a general correlation, it can provide information to support or deny a claim. “In order to obtain a representative sample, some criteria have been developed to weight the answers of the interviewed people who, on some sociodemographic characteristics, are similar to those who have not been reached by interviewers or have refused the interview” (Seale, Gobo, Gubrium, & Silverman, 2007, p. 412). The main strategy for data collection is a paper survey administered to fifteen students aged 14-18 from Stuyvesant High School. For the purposes of this survey, answers were anonymous and did not include mention of gender, race, sexuality, or ethnicity.

The survey had 8 questions. Some were yes or no questions, while others aimed to give a numerical value. Students were given 15 minutes to answer the survey. When they finished, the papers were collected and participants were asked if they would like to participate in an interview. The face-to-face interview lasted 5 minutes per person with 4 people of the 15 participating. The answers provided additional information for the discussion section and enabled further examination of screen time.

The use of the survey gave a chance to create numerical and graphical representation of respondent answers. The face-to-face interview gave respondents a chance to expound further on their answers. The time frame used for the survey was during lunch period. The students were asked to participate randomly.


The negative correlation anticipated from the hypothesis was confirmed. Student responses demonstrated less sleep time with more screen time. This may be due to late onset sleep. The respondents also stated they use electronic devices because of homework and the most popular electronic device were smartphones.

Brief interviews conducted with participants after the survey revealed students used social media apps on their smartphones right before they went to bed. They would check their Twitter feeds, their friend’s Instagram posts, and would message people on Facebook. One participant, aged 14 admitted that social media motivated most of her smartphone use. Participant added the smartphone was rarely used for phone calls and rather, was used to chat on social media apps and text message.

Other participants noted the smartphone allowed them to watch videos on Youtube and Netflix. Some stated they spent an hour or so watching people they are subscribed to or their favorite shows. When asked about homework, they would go online and search for information and research. However, they would also spend time playing games or again, on social media. The answers in the Appendix section will provide the evidence for negative correlation between screen time and sleep time.


The face-to-face interview focused on several themes. First was identifying why teenagers use smartphones so often, every day. The second was discussing the impact homework has on electronics usage. Third, understanding the need participants seemed to have in relation to using their electronic devices at night.

When asked about smartphones, the 4 respondents interviewed shared the need to socially interact with their community, their friends, and their family. It seems social media plays a big role in why they use their smartphones for such an extensive amount of time. Some respondents mentioned it was easier for them to interact in this manner than interacting using phone calls or face-to-face interactions. They also revealed they used their smartphones as a convenient form of entertainment.

The next theme relating to homework asked respondents if homework really was the main motivator for additional screen time. Respondents states yes although they did not actually do homework until much later. This is due to the entertainment factor of electronic devices. They stated they simply found something fun to do and ignored their tasks. When they finally decided to engage in completion of homework, it was already close to their bedtime.

The third theme centered on why participants used their smartphones at night. Their answers tied in with the last two themes. They said they procrastinated and left everything until the last minute. This stressed them out and when they finally finished their task, they decided to engage in an entertaining activity. The entertaining activity was primarily done on the smartphone.

Because the smartphone can be taken to bed and have the lights off as one respondent stated, it was easy to stay online and have additional screen time at night. One respondent noted the significant effect it had on sleep time stating lack of sleep due to watching ‘hours of Youtube videos’. Another respondent said it did affect when sleep time would occur. By having the smartphone available, sleep time extended to midnight instead of the typical 10pm bedtime.

These answers further point to the need to understand the impact of social media and the convenience of the smartphone. Smartphones allow teenagers to access the internet and apps that allow for further exploration of information, but also permit teenagers to procrastinate and waste time online. These answers point to the need to evaluate the negative impact new technology has on today’s youth and whether it will worsen or not in the future. Furthermore, research may continue and evolve towards the direction of social media and the potential negative correlation of it and student academic performance. If social media has a negative effect on a student’s academic performance, research may provide the evidence needed to curb social media usage by teenagers.


In conclusion, fifteen high school students from Stuyvesant High School were asked 8 questions relating to sleep time and screen time. The hypothesis focused on a possible negative correlation between sleep time and screen time. The respondent answers revealed sleep time was affected by screen time. The results from the survey support existing literature examining the potential detrimental effects of too much screen time.

The brief interviews with the respondents after the survey revealed students use their smartphones mainly for social media. The survey results demonstrated the most used electronics were smartphones. If sleep time is to be improved, smartphone usage must be limited. Smartphones enable easy access to a myriad of entertaining activities. Apps like Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter allow teenagers to comment, interact, and watch videos online from the comfort of their bed.

It is important to address the growing prevalence of smartphone usage. Smartphones are convenient and offer the processing power of computers in a small, portable device. While the main reason respondents of the survey used, electronic devices were homework for school, the interviews revealed respondents used the internet on their smartphones to procrastinate and entertain themselves. Future research must be aimed towards the effects of social media on teenagers. Specifically, does high engagement in social media lead to poorer academic performance among teenagers.


Screen time/Sleep time Survey



1. What electronics do you most use each day?

2. Do you use these electronics before bed time?

3. For how long do you use these electronics?

4. How many hours of sleep on average do you receive?

5. Do you get 8 hours of sleep each day or more?

6. If you do not feel sleepy, will you turn to your electronics until you feel sleepy?

7. Does it take one hour or less to feel sleepy?

8. Does homework impact your decision to use electronics? Yes or No.

Respondent Answers

1. Television 2. Yes

Smartphone Yes

Smartphone Yes

Smartphone Yes

Smartphone No

Smartphone Yes

Television Yes

Video games Yes

Television No

Video Games No

Video Games Yes

Smartphone Yes

Smartphone Yes

Television Yes

Smartphone No

3. Hours of Screen-time 4. Hours of Sleep-time 5. 6.

10 6 No Yes

8 7 No Yes

4 8 Yes No

5 8 Yes No

4 9 Yes No

3 8 Yes Yes

4 8 Yes Yes

11 6 No No

2 9 Yes Yes

1 8 Yes Yes

9 7 No Yes

9 7 No Yes

1 8 Yes No

4 7 No Yes

13 5 No Yes

7. Yes 8. Yes

Yes Yes

Yes Yes

Yes Yes

No Yes

Yes Yes

Yes Yes

Yes Yes

No Yes

No Yes

Yes Yes

Yes Yes

Yes Yes

Yes Yes

No Yes

Graph for Sleep Time vs. Screen Time and Questions 3 and 4.


Foley, L. S., Maddison, R., Jiang, Y., Marsh, S., Olds, T., & Riley, K. (2013). Presleep Activities and Time of Sleep Onset in Children. PEDIATRICS, 131(2), X9-X9. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-1651d

Hale, L., & Guan, S. (2015). Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: A systematic literature review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 21, 50-58. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.07.007

Seale, C., Gobo, G., Gubrium, J. F., & Silverman, D. (2007). Qualitative research practice. London.

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