Nighttime Smartphone Use, Sleep Quality, and Mental Health: Investigating a Complex Relationship

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

STUDY OBJECTIVES: This study investigated the complex relationship between nighttime smartphone use, sleep, and mental health among adult populations in Denmark.

METHODS: Data from three interconnected samples (aged 16-89 years) from the SmartSleep Study included 5,798 individuals with survey and register data; 4,239 individuals also provided high-resolution smartphone tracking data. Logistic regression models and causal discovery algorithms, which suggest possible causal pathways consistent with the underlying data structure, were used to infer the relationship between self-reported and tracked nighttime smartphone use, self-reported sleep quality, mental health indicators, and register-based psychotropic medication use.

RESULTS: Frequent self-reported nighttime smartphone use was associated with high perceived stress (OR: 2.24, 95% CI: 1.42;3.55) and severe depressive symptoms (OR: 2.96, 95% CI: 2.04;4.28). We found no clear associations between tracked nighttime smartphone use and mental health outcomes, except for the cluster that used their smartphones repeatedly during the sleep period, which was associated with severe depressive symptoms (OR=1.69, 95% CI: 1.24;2.31). Poor sleep quality (vs. good sleep quality) was associated with high perceived stress (OR=5.07, 95% CI: 3.72;6.90), severe depressive symptoms (OR=9.67, 95% CI: 7.09;13.19), and psychotropic medication use (OR=2.13, 95% CI: 1.36;3.35). The causal discovery models suggest that nighttime smartphone use affects mental health through both problematic smartphone use and poor sleep quality.

CONCLUSION: The complex relationship between nighttime smartphone use, sleep, and poor mental health may create a vicious circle over time, and nighttime smartphone use may constitute a potential leverage point for public health interventions aimed at improving sleep and mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberzsad256
Issue number12
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Sleep Research Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:

ID: 371551407