University of East London psychology senior lecturer Jolanta Burke and Hughes, a master's candidate at the time, delved into the relationship people have with their phones on a daily basis in their study, "Sleeping with the frenemy: How restricting 'bedroom use' of smartphones impacts happiness and wellbeing," published in the "Computers in Human Behavior" journal in March this year.
Hughes tells Make It that the experiment was based on her own experience: up until four years ago, she had a Blackberry cellphone which she mainly used for emails, texts and "well, phone calls." As everyone around her got iPhones and other advanced smartphones, she noticed they also became hooked to their phones.
"Now, you look down at your phone, you open Instagram, which then leads to an article and suddenly 40 minutes have gone by," Hughes says. "You're getting information that you didn't seek out and going down mental and emotional journeys that you did not choose or intend to go down."
In the study, Hughes and Burke split their 95 participants — a majority of them millennials — into two groups: a control group which could use their smartphones as usual and an experimental group which was not allowed to use their phone in their bedroom for one week.
Hughes says the initial sample size group was made of 200 people, but once she shared the requirements of the experiment, people dropped out. She noted this may have been a sign of how attached people can be to their phones.
The study concluded that those who didn't use their phones in their bedrooms showed a statistically significant increase happiness and overall quality of life.
To Hughes' surprise, the study also found that the week-long experiment made people less likely to be addicted to their phones.