Your Late Night Phone Use Is Probably Dangerous

April 24th 2015

Jessica Glassberg

While at work, are you constantly refreshing your email? You can admit it, we’re all friends here.

Then, when you’re on your lunch break, you check it, what? One, two, ten more times and respond to anything that might be pressing before you return to your office to once again refresh your email, right? How about while you’re binge watching Daredevil on the weekend? Or you’re in the bathroom? Or you’re eating with your family? There you are with your spouse, kids, and Smarty the Smartphone who gets his own seat at the dinner table. Smarty, who now gets more of your attention than your six-year-old who just wants you to be the foreperson at the Play-Doh Fun Factory. But you can’t be the foreperson because you’re too busy putting out fires. And not in a fun, wearing a red plastic hat, “playing firefighter” kind of putting out fires. You’re putting out “work fires.”

But in the end, aren’t you the one who gets burned?

A recent article by the Harvard Review points out that by constantly being attached to your work, you are not only detaching yourself from the people you care about, you are actually… wait for it… LESS productive.

If you are a team leader, by writing to your crew late at night, you are (perhaps unintentionally) sending a signal to them that they should be on call 24/7, and if they are not ready to respond in the wee hours of the morning, they are less of a team player.

With so many employees permanently chained to their job, a 2013 Gallup poll showed that 70 percent of workers are not engaged in their work. A large part of this is because they do not feel like they have time to detach.

Everyone needs and deserves downtime. And this downtime is in fact what gets your creative juices flowing and allows for the chance to have a new perspective on a given situation. As the Harvard Review article states, “Being connected in off-hours during busy times is the sign of a high-performer. Never disconnecting is a sign of a workaholic.”

Studies show that you can better restore your focus and regain energy by taking advantage of downtime, or even taking an afternoon nap. By stepping away from a problem, you are better able to view the larger picture when you return to it and can better prioritize tasks.

Even worse, there could be serious health effects from looking at a screen late at night. A 2013 study from Brigham and Women's Hospital found that light emitted from screens on smart phones or e-readers can mess with your body's melatonin production. Not only will that hurt your sleep that night, it will make you less alert the next day. And constantly feeling sleepy can lead to long-term problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

So, instead of pressing that refresh button on your email or rereading that late night document when you could be reading “Goodnight Moon,” turn off your phone and relax your brain. Your emails will be waiting for you when you turn it back on. And you’ll feel much more refreshed and ready to tackle your workload.