Screens Affect Teens’ Sleep


Teenagers have burned the candle at both ends for generations. Now, however, it is not partying or studying that affect teens rest and stop them from getting a good night’s sleep – it is the countless screens in their lives.

The phones, games consoles, laptops, iPads and televisions in teens lives are impacting their sleep. In fact, new research shows that use of electronic devices is keeping teens and adolescents awake.

Noting the many possible pathways between screen time and sleep,” the study’s lead author Mari Hysing of Uni Research Health in Bergen, Norway, noted that the light emanated from the screens could affect circadian rhythms, to which teenagers may be especially sensitive.

The research team studied survey responses from approximately 10,000 adolescents aged 16 to 19 in Western Norway. They were specifically asked about their habits involving screen use.

The girls averaged 5.5 hours of screen time with a personal computer, tablet, cell phone, MP3 player, TV or game console. The boys topped them, averaging seven screen-facing hours a day. A large proportion of the time for both groups was spent chatting online. In addition, both sexes averaged 30 minutes on emails daily. Boys also spent an hour playing console video games and PC games.

The teens were also asked about the time of day the device screens were used to better see affect on sleep. It is no surprise that those surveyed used their phones and laptops right before bed. More than 90 percent of the females and 80 percent of the males indicated that they used a cell phone in the hour before going to sleep. Laptop usage prior to bedtime was equally common.

The research showed that using any device within the hour before bed resulted in difficulty falling asleep. In fact, the study showed a 13 to 52 percent increase in teens needing more than 60 minutes to fall asleep. Those who clocked more than four hours of screen time in the daytime also had a similar increase in “sleep latency,” difficulty falling asleep. Since the teens use many devices in the day (often simultaneously,) the research team was unable to determine if different devices affected sleep more.

“There is now much evidence, including this study, to suggest that screen time has a direct effect on sleep,” Hysing pointed out. She acknowledged that there are other variables that could have affected the resulted. For example, depressed teenagers often get less sleep, and this may also be related to screen time use, she added.

The study is based on data gathered at one point in time, so there is no data on changes in sleep patterns or screen usage. There is also no proven cause and effect, so it is possible the teens use their device screens more at bedtime because they cannot sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation has recommended in the past that adolescents not eat, drink or exercise within a few hours of bedtime. They also suggested teens avoid using the computer, phone or television in the hour prior to going to sleep. However, many teens will clearly protest that it is the homework they are doing the screens that affects their social media time and keeps them using their devices so late.

By Dyanne Weiss

British Medical Journal
Daily Mail

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