Researchers from Italy have found that during the pandemic, people who increased their evening screen time also tended to worse sleep quality.
For the study, the researchers conducted a web-based survey during the third and seventh week of Italy’s first national lockdown in March 2020 and April 2020. All in all, 2,123 Italian residents participated.
The surveys evaluated sleep quality and symptoms of insomnia via the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and the Insomnia Severity Index. The second survey also evaluated electronic device usage in the two hours before falling asleep.
From the data, the researchers found that 35.4% of respondents reported an increase in electronic device usage before bed between the first and second surveys. They tended to have reduced sleep quality, more symptoms of insomnia, later bedtimes and rising times, and were asleep for shorter periods each night. People in this group were also more likely to have moderate to severe symptoms of insomnia.
Meanwhile, 7.1% of participants reported decreased evening screen time between the first and second survey. This came with improved sleep quality and fewer symptoms of insomnia overall. Over this period, this group also demonstrated a decrease in the number of people reporting poor sleep and moderate or severe symptoms of insomnia.
The remaining 57.5% of respondents reported no change to their electronic device usage before bed between the two surveys. This group of participants also had the best sleep quality in the first survey and saw no changes in sleep quality in the second survey.
"The evidence of a strong relationship between screen habits and the time course of sleep disturbances during the lockdown period suggests that, now, more than never, raising public awareness about the risks of evening exposure to electronic devices could be crucial to preserve general sleep health.” says Michele Ferrara, one of the authors of the study.
“This applies to both the ongoing pandemic and the future, as electronic technologies will find more and more space in our daily routine."