More Tech Time Than Sleep Time, Evidence Shows

Author

Frances Booth, Contributor

August 8, 2014

Evidence shows that we now spend more time on media devices than we do asleep.

According to the latest Ofcom report, released today, the average adult in the UK spends eight hours and 41 minutes on media and communication activity each day, compared to just eight hours and 21 minutes asleep.

The eight hours 41 minutes spent on media devices – texting, talking, gaming, typing, listening or watching – accounts for more than half our waking day for the average adult.

As we continue to adopt technology, it seems sleep is being pushed to one side.

How well did you sleep last night? Did you have enough sleep?

And how long did you spend yesterday on media devices?

It can seem an easy solution to cut down on sleep, as we increase our media consumption, and feel a need to stay connected. But we need to keep a balance here.

What can seem like an easy solution – cutting down on sleep – can actually damage our productivity. Most of us notice the reality of this, on days we feel tired, and aren’t very productive. And yet often we don’t think about the option of cutting back on media consumption.

Screen-use in particular, and especially late at night, can have a negative impact on our sleep.

Separate evidence shows that we are sleeping one to two hours less than we were 60 years ago. And part of the reason for this is our over-use of screens late at night.

This lack of sleep is causing serious health problems, researchers from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Manchester and Surrey universities found. I discuss the impact of this in more depth here.

In a constantly connected world, we shouldn’t forget the value of sleep.

The Ofcom evidence shows that late at night is exactly when many of us turn to work emails. Researchers found that among those who do work-related emailing and texting in personal time, 59% do so in the evening.

Of those who work in personal time, more than one in ten read or send work emails or texts in bed, first thing in the morning or last thing at night.

The research also shows that senior managers are more likely than others to work outside of office hours. Almost three quarters (72%) of senior managers send work emails out of office hours occasionally, and 44% do so regularly.

The Ofcom Communications Market Report – based on research conducted among 1,982 adults aged 15 and over, and 800 children aged 6 to 15 in the UK – also found that six in ten adults (61%) now own a smartphone. This increases to 88% among young people aged 16-24.

The number of people using tablets has also increased rapidly in the past year, with more than four in ten households (44%) owning a tablet, compared to just a quarter of households (24%) a year beforehand.

Frances Booth is author of The Distraction Trap: How To Focus In A Digital World She provides advice on digital distraction and productivity to businesses and executives

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