Nurses who use a smartphone before bed may be more distracted at work, researchers say

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Nurses who use a smartphone at night for work-related reasons are likely to be less effective on the job the next day, according to recently published research from Michigan State University.

The investigators surveyed more than 160 people working in a variety of occupations, including nursing. The questions measured how much the subjects monitored a smartphone for work-related reasons after 9 p.m., the quality of their sleep, and their engagement in the workplace.

Increased smartphone use was related to degraded sleep quality and poorer engagement at work, the researchers found. Specifically, the smartphone use affected “self-control resources.”

“Self-control resources enable employees to devote energy to work tasks and block out non-work distractions, which are vital ingredients for experiencing the absorption, vigor, and dedication that characterize engagement,” the researchers wrote.

Furthermore, smartphones emit blue light that has been shown to hinder melatonin production, which is necessary for sleep, the researchers noted. Perhaps due to this, the study participants reported that smartphones had a greater negative effect on their sleep and subsequent work engagement than watching television or working on a laptop or tablet computer.

Noting that the self-reported nature of the research is one limitation, the Michigan State team still recommended that employers consider the costs and benefits of workers using smartphones after hours, and adjust policies or otherwise address the practice accordingly.

Findings will appear in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Russell Johnson, Ph.D., was the lead researcher.

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