Rise in video calls could be to blame for poor sleep during pandemic, experts reveal

Rise in video calls could be to blame for poor sleep during pandemic, experts reveal

An increase in the use of video conferencing platforms – such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and Messenger – may be to blame for poor sleep quality across the UK during lockdown, experts warn.

Experts have cited that excessive screen time is a major issue for those who’ve been using video conferencing platforms over the last year, based on findings from a brand-new study on national sleep quality.

In addition to assessing the impact of blue light on sleep, the WakeUpWell study, conducted by Blinds Direct, also analysed light pollution levels, sun hours and mean annual temperatures in key locations to establish which parts of England experience the lowest quality of sleep, and advises Brits on how best to combat it.

A recent Ofcom report shows that video calls doubled in the first half of 2020, while adults reported spending an average of four hours a day online – representing a 16% increase in screen time compared to the year before.

More than seven in 10 adults in the UK were found to be making weekly video calls at the start of lockdown, compared to just 35% who used video conferencing pre-lockdown.

Recent studies have shown that video calls are more mentally taxing than face-to-face conversations as we have to work harder to interpret non-verbal cues like facial expressions, which can cause a dissonance that makes it difficult to relax while digitally working or socialising.

This increased screen time – or video call fatigue – is linked to poor sleep quality due to the increased exposure to artificial light, which experts have warned is a key factor behind a disrupted night’s rest. This is particularly true for those who’ve also been working remotely.

This is concerning given that in 2020, 43% of remote and in-house work teams used a video conferencing tool as standard, while Google Meet had over 100 million daily meeting participants in 2020 – representing a staggering increase in video calls over the last year.

The risk of poor sleep is even worse for those of us who multiscreen – i.e. use two devices at the same time, such as watching TV while working or scrolling through social media – as it doubles light exposure.

In fact, a recent YouGov survey showed that 68% – more than two thirds – of Brits watch TV while using a smartphone, laptop, tablet, desktop computer, games console or other device at the same time – despite the negative effects of increased blue light exposure.

Reducing screen time is essential for Brits to increase their chances of getting a good night’s rest.Katherine Hall, Sleep Psychologist, says: “If you have been routinely waking up slightly later since working from home, you may find waking up slightly earlier more difficult.

“With more and more people working from home during the pandemic, the line between ‘work’ and ‘home’ has become a lot blurrier. This may have led to excessive time spent in front of your phone, delaying sleep and impacting sleep quality.”

For Alex Savy, Certified Sleep Science Coach, light levels are the most impactful factor on sleep, as he says: ““To improve one’s sleep quality, you need to control light exposure. Try to get enough daylight by sitting near the window during work or taking walks whenever you can (even on a foggy day, it still might do you some good).

“Additionally, you might want to limit your screen time and, ideally, avoid taking devices to bed. You can use a blue light filter in the evening for extra protection and dim the lights around the house a couple of hours before bedtime.”

Thomas Croft, HR Manager at Blinds Direct adds: “The study has made it evident that it’s not easy to get a good night’s sleep regardless of where you live or what you do for a living, as all cities and regions are exposed to high levels of light pollution.

“With an imminent return to pre-pandemic life, and people returning to work after a long period of working from home, it’s crucial that we prioritise our sleep schedule and ensure our homes are conducive to a high quality of sleep. Whether it’s by investing in blackout blinds, or a new mattress; or limiting screen time.”

To see the full results of the analysis, please visit the #WakeUpWell study here: https://www.blindsdirect.co.uk/wake-up-well 

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