A girl playing video gamesStudies have shown sleep deprivation for children can have profound effects. In a recent study from Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha, researchers investigated the relationship between technology use among children and sleep. They found that all types of technology, when used before bedtime, negatively affect sleep duration. These findings emphasize the need for educating parents about healthy sleep habits for children and teens.

The researchers used a cross-sectional approach, collecting data from 738 children (just over half were boys) in the United Kingdom in 2010. The children, aged 11 to 13, completed the School Sleep Habits Survey and the Technology Use Questionnaire, which surveyed the weekday bedroom use of six technologies including television, mobile phones, video games, social networking, and music. They analyzed how the use of these technologies affected sleep quality, quantity, and disorders.

The findings demonstrate an inverse association between all types of technology use in the bedroom and weekday sleep duration. Tech use was also linked to frequent early awakening. Mobile use, video games, and social networking increased the difficulty of falling asleep at night, while listening to music boosted the risk of frequent nightmares. Children who often watched television were four times more likely to report higher rates of sleepwalking. The biggest factor for sleep loss was social networking. Children who checked in on social media before bed reported the least sleep—eight hours and ten minutes, compared to nine hours and two minutes of those who were not on social media.

“Using technology in the bedroom may result in sleep loss, delays in initiating sleep, daytime sleepiness and more. In turn, this may affect daytime performance, particularly at school,” stated Teresa Arora, lead study author.

Children aged 11 to 13 need around ten to 11 hours of continuous sleep each night for best health. It is recommended that children shut down their electronics at least one hour before bedtime. Parents can help define the boundaries of appropriate technology use by becoming educated, talking with their children, and removing technology from children’s rooms.

This research is published in the journal Sleep Medicine.

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