According to research conducted by scientists from the Folkhälsan Research Center in Finland and the University of Helsinki, children’s electronic media habits play a role in how much sleep they get. Evaluating children’s bedtimes, TV watching habits, and other factors, the researchers concluded that the more children watch television or use computers was correlated with less sleep.

The researchers carried out a longitudinal study that tracked the changes in the sleep habits of over 800 10 and 11 year-old children from 27 Finnish schools. Half of the schools received an intervention and the other half functioned as the control group. Students completed a questionnaire about their health behaviors at the outset of the study and again at its finish 18 months later. The researchers asked students about bedtimes and wake-up times on school days and weekends, how much time they spend watching TV or using computers, and whether or not they had their own television or computer in their bedroom. They also surveyed for gender and family structure.

The primary finding of the research was that using computers and watching television predicted both shorter sleep duration and later bedtimes. Computers in the bedroom were correlated with less sleep on the weekends. Furthermore, the more children used electronic media, the less sleep they had. They also found that media in the bedroom affected boys and girls differently. For example, girls with a television in their rooms slept more on weekends than boys with or without televisions in their bedrooms. Having a computer in the bedroom was linked to worse sleep habits in boys, but not in girls. Further research will be needed to investigate why these trends exist.

This study ties together several types of existing research that show relationships between the use of electronic media, sleep duration, and the presence of electronic media in the bedroom. These findings suggest that if a student is not sleeping enough, his or her media habits should be evaluated as a means of promoting better sleep.

Teija Nuutinen, the study’s lead author stated, “Children need extra sleep as they go through puberty, but our study finds that TV and computer use affect the sleep of children. This is especially true during the week and may be impacting their school work as well as their development. Media viewing habits should be considered for kids who are tired and struggling to concentrate, or who have behavior problems caused by lack of sleep.”

This research is published in Biomed Central’s open-access journal BMC Public Health.

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