UK's struggle to ‘switch off’ digital addiction stops a good night's sleep

Image of an overtired man in bed using a laptop
  • Half (52%) of UK adults believe they don’t get enough sleep, getting just six hours per night on average.
  • Sleeping well is considered the most important element in maintaining overall health by 57% of Brits, above eating healthily (54%) and exercising regularly (43%).
  • Over-use of digital devices before bed, such as scrolling through social media (22%) or checking  emails (15%) is having a significant impact on the nation’s sleep quality.
  • Young adults (16-24 yr olds) are most negatively impacted by screen-time.

Many adults are struggling to switch off their digital addiction at bedtime, seriously impacting their sleep quality and overall health.  According to new research from Aviva1, over half (52%) of UK adults believe they currently don’t get enough sleep, with the average adult sleeping for just six hours per night – two hours less than the recommended amount2.

The effect of digital technology on UK adults’ sleep


believe they currently don’t get enough sleep


say checking social media affects their ability to fall sleep


struggle to avoid checking or sending late-night


admit just having their smartphone by their bed prevents them sleeping well

Dr Doug Wright, Medical Director, Aviva said: “The last few moments before bed can be crucial in determining how restful our night’s sleep is. Many of us regularly turn to technology at bedtime – but it’s a bad habit to get into. 

Not only can checking emails or social media cause you to become distracted and fall asleep later than you would do otherwise, the light omitted from many devices stimulates our brains and prevents us from relaxing into ‘sleep mode’. Try to minimise your screen-time before bed, by reading a book or taking a bath instead.

The importance of sleeping well is widely recognised; it was ranked as the most crucial element to maintaining good overall health by 57% of the UK public – more important than eating a healthy and balanced diet (54%) and exercising regularly (43%).

Digital disruption

However, despite this recognition, many UK adults are failing to practise positive habits to ensure they have a good night’s sleep, with the use of digital devices including smartphones, tablets and TVs before bed significantly impacting sleep quality.

Young adults and women experience negative effects most acutely

According to Aviva, those aged 16 to 24 are most affected by the amount of time spent using digital devices. The study reveals over a third (35%) of people in this age group find social media prevents them from getting a good night’s sleep, compared to 22% of all UK adults.

Women are also far more likely than men to be prevented from sleeping, by having their smartphones within arm’s reach of the bed. Significantly more women keep their smartphones close to them at night than men (22% versus 13%) and are also more likely to stay awake to check their social media (28% versus 16%).

Dr Doug Wright added: “A good night’s sleep is a crucial component for a healthy lifestyle and can affect all areas of our life, from our work to our weight. Quality is often just as important as quantity and Aviva’s research shows too often the sleep we experience is restless and disturbed.

“If you’re still worried about the quality or quantity of your sleep, speak to your GP to help get to the bottom of why you’re struggling. They can offer advice on resolving any related underlying issues, such as stress or anxiety, as well as suggest some practical measures to secure a peaceful night’s rest.”

Top tips for sleeping better

  • Minimise screen time – Our bodies need to time to shift into sleep mode. Rather than browsing the internet or watching TV, why not try a more calming activity such as reading or taking a bath? Avoiding electronic devices before bed can help to combat sleepless lights by cutting exposure to lights which stimulate the brain.
  • Write a “to do” list – If you struggle to switch off, and spend hours tossing and turning worrying about the next day, spending five minutes before bed writing a “to do” list can help organise your thoughts and restore a peaceful mind.
  • Set yourself a bedtime – We’re creatures of habit - sticking to a regular bedtime - even on weekends - helps to programme your brain to a regular routine and can also help ensure you’re clocking up a sufficient amount of sleep each night.
  • Cut the caffeine – Caffeine’s incredibly effective at stimulating our body and minds, so much so that the effect of a lunchtime coffee can remain in our system well into the evening. Try watching your caffeine intake in the afternoon, to help your mind wind down naturally. 
  • Recognise the root cause – While lack of sleep may be driven by day-to-day lifestyle factors, sometimes it can be driven by an underlying cause such as anxiety or depression. If you suspect there might be other issues contributing to your sleep problems, speak to your GP to help tackle the root cause.


1Research amongst 2,011 UK adults conducted for Aviva by Censuswide in February 2019

2NHS recommends an average of 8 hours per night:

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