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Staying connected under the sheets: US gadget use in bed research

Remember the times when the first thing to do in the morning was to go to the bathroom or make your bed? Today, however, it’s almost second nature to first check your phone after turning your alarm off. How many of us do that? We’ve decided to do a little research and find out for sure.

Staying connected under the sheets: US gadget use in bed research

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Screen-time pillow talk

From Netflix and chill to catching up on the latest world news – at least 83% of 18-74 year-old (18-64 year-olds in Mexico) respondents claim to use any digital devices (such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs) while in bed. Out of all the participating countries, Mexicans lead the way, with a whopping 97% of users browsing, watching, and surfing digital content in the sheets, while the Swiss show the lowest numbers with 75% doing so.

infographic: device use in bed

As you may guess, smartphones are by far the most popular device to use while in bed — 88% of respondents claim to swipe and scroll in their bedrooms. Additionally, 43% admit to watching TV while tucked in, while 34% use a computer or laptop, and 29% enjoy content on their tablets.

The US public is no exception when it comes to browsing while snug in bed. On average, the US population uses more than two devices while laying in bed, with 42% using three gadgets or more. Research also suggests that 87% of Americans use at least one kind of electronic device in the bunk, with 84% scrolling a smartphone and 55% watching TV. Out of those who use a smartphone, at least 57% also watch TV, and 19% enjoy gaming via Xbox or other consoles.

Early birds vs. night owls

As the research shows, the majority of bedtime tech users engage in virtual activities before going to sleep – 89% of respondents report using electronic devices in bed during the evening or at night. Meanwhile, morning people are not keen on spending too much time scrolling, watching, or otherwise engaging with digital screens – only 38% of device users in bed claim to use them during the morning hours.

Out of participating countries, the Nordics (Sweden, Denmark, Norway) are among the most active bed scrollers, with well above 40% using a device in the mornings and over 90% in the evening or at night. English-speaking countries (such as the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia) are not far behind in either category. For example, in the US, 46% of users claim to use their phone or other device in bed during the morning (rivaling only Sweden and Norway), while 89% do so in the evening or at night.

Turning off alarms and checking emails: Cases for bedtime electronic use

Almost half of all respondents wake up with the cell phone alarm. However, during morning hours, people most commonly check the news, their email, and social media while in bed, while night-time users tend to watch videos and TV shows on their favorite streaming platforms.

Out of participating countries, Mexicans are most likely to check their media first thing in the morning, with 72% of users doing so. Germans check the news the most (54%), while the Polish lead in checking emails, messages, and SMS (73%). During evening hours, Mexicans continue to dominate the bedside device usage numbers, clocking in at 63% and 61% in watching TV shows and videos respectively.

In the US, the usage trends differ little from the global average. While Americans are less keen on reading or listening to the news in bed (only 34% compared to 42% worldwide), they are among the leaders in checking the weather forecast while still under the covers (51%). The US population also ranks high in bedside video watching (51%) and email checking (57%) in the evening while continuing to maintain one of the lowest rankings in reading and listening to the news (27%) at that time of day.

infographic: use cases of device in bed

Screen time before sleep time

The research data shows that out of all 89% of 18-74 year-old participants using their devices in bed during the evening or night time, almost a half (46%) are happy with the time they spend on their gadgets. People in English-speaking countries (except Canada) and the Nordic region, however, admit to overuse of their devices before bedtime, with 42-45% claiming they spend a “more than intended” amount of time on their gadgets.

European countries, in general, rank higher in their satisfaction with their screen time management, with Italians being the least concerned about their usage time (66% Italians report it being “as much as intended”). Meanwhile, Mexicans, residents of Spain, and the Japanese lead in using bedside gadgets before sleep for “less than intended” periods of time (25-28%), compared to other countries (15% or less).

The US results show a clear split between those who use devices before sleep for an intended amount of time and those who believe they look at the screen for too long (43% and 42% respectively). While the percentage is relatively close to the global average, Americans still rank high among users who think they spend “way more” time than intended compared to other countries.

To snooze or not to snooze

More than a half of respondents admit to not using bedtime mode on their smartphone, with an additional 10% not knowing what it is. While Italians, Australians, Mexicans, and Norwegians are among the top fans of bedtime mode (33-40%), American, Japanese, and Polish respondents prefer to be available even when they’re sleeping (with 63-68% preferring to not use bedtime mode on their devices).

Additionally, British, French, and Danish respondents may be the most surprised to discover that their smartphones can limit notifications during night time, with 12%, 15%, and 20% of users respectively claiming to not have known about bedtime mode and its features.

Doomscrolling and its effects on sleep quality

Out of all the respondents, at least 39% agree or somewhat agree that they scroll through bad news while in bed. While another 31% are uncertain about whether their content can be attributed to doomscrolling, overall, more than a half of respondents agree that using smartphones in bed may negatively affect their sleep quality (56%).

Americans, Norwegians, and Mexicans lead the way in bedside doomsday scrolling, with 44-50% admitting to browse the negative news. Meanwhile Austrians reside on the other end of the spectrum (27%). In addition, Americans are among the least likely to agree that using smartphones before going to sleep negatively affects their sleep quality (50%).

Finally, when asked about using devices while in bed with a significant other, 40% admit to watch, listen, or scroll next to their loved ones. With 23% unable to agree or disagree about whether they do so, the final 37% claim to be faithful (or somewhat faithful) to a no-gadget policy while in the bedroom with their significant other.

Out of the participating countries, German, Austrian, and Swiss respondents seem to be the most reluctant to use devices in the bedroom (with only 26-29% of users agreeing or somewhat agreeing to a statement indicating they use their phone while in bed with a significant other). On the other hand, Australians, Brits, and Mexicans are among the most keen on using their gadgets while in bed with a partner or spouse (47-52%).

Should I sleep or should I scroll?

While some may consider their bedtime device usage to be a part of their leisure and relaxation time, a majority of respondents feel otherwise. When comparing all collected data, we noticed that more than half of users that claim feeling like spending too much of their free time browsing in their bed, also consider this activity to be a waste of their time (51%). In addition, 46-48% respondents of the same category admit that their bedtime device usage usually contains doomsday scrolling and negatively affects their sleep.

In the US, these numbers jump above the global average. As many as 58% of respondents agree that their extended use of bedside gadgets have made them feel like they are wasting their time. In addition, 54% spend more time on their gadgets than intended while in bed with a significant other.

Cybersecurity tips to remember

Using a phone or computer to cozy up in bed for work or digital entertainment can be pleasant. However, while browsing in the sheets, don’t forget to stay safe (and snug) with these cybersecurity tips.

  • Keep your apps and operating systems up to date. Don’t skip software updates.
  • Do your research. Never download unknown apps, and always review their terms of service.
  • Avoid unofficial app stores. They’re more likely to contain malicious apps.
  • Avoid using public unsecure Wi-Fi networks. If there’s no other choice – always use a VPN when using the network.
  • Be vigilant. Don’t click on suspicious links and be wary of unknown phone numbers. If you’re unsure about the link’s safety, consider using a link checker tool.
  • Use a VPN. VPNs encrypt your data, providing you with protection against data snoopers and hackers. With the NordVPN app, you can secure up to 10 devices and shield your browsing activity from prying eyes. Most subscriptions include the Threat Protection feature, adding an additional defense against malware and intrusive tracking systems.

Online security starts with a click.

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The survey was commissioned by NordVPN and conducted by the external company Cint on February 12 – March 4, 2024. The survey’s target group were residents of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Mexico, and Japan aged 18-74 (nationally representative) with an exception in Mexico (18-64). The sample was taken from national internet users. Quotas were placed on age, gender, and place of residence. In total, 15,600 people were surveyed — 800 people from Spain and Switzerland each and 1,000 people from each of the remaining countries.