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How looking at screens in the dark can impact your child's sleep

Teen girl lying in bed at night and looking at the glowing screen of smartphone.

Credit: BigStock

Sufficient sleep and good sleep quality are essential for the physical and mental development of children and adolescents. However, globally 90 per cent of adolescents are not sleeping the recommended nine to 11 hours per night. Coincidently, there is also an increase in the use of screen-based media devices. Previous research has shown that adolescents are sleeping less than seven hours a night on most nights due to night-time use of screens. Other reports show that children who used a computer at bedtime have 60 minutes less sleep and have trouble falling asleep. Insufficient sleep impairs productivity and performance in school and also leads to depression, anxiety and obesity in children and adolescents.

These associations were even stronger and increased to 147 per cent in those adolescents who used mobile phones or watched television in the dark.

To understand the association between night-time screen-based devices and sleep outcomes, researchers from the University of London and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, Switzerland were the first to investigate the use of pre-sleep media devices with room lighting conditions and how it impacted sleep in pre-teens.

The researchers analysed baseline data from a large sample of 6616 adolescents from 39 schools in and around London, United Kingdom, participating in the Study of Cognition Adolescents and Mobile Phone (SCAMP). The adolescents were between the ages of 11 and 12 and were asked to report on various variables including the use of a screen in both lit and darkened room conditions, their sleep times on weekdays and weekends, how difficult they found it to go to sleep and their wake up times.

Over two-thirds of the adolescents or nearly 71 per cent reported to using at least one screen based device one hour before bedtime. About a third (32.2. per cent) reported using mobile phones at night in the dark. Adolescents who used mobile phones or watched television in a room with light were 31 per cent more likely to have insufficient sleep and sleep later on weekends compared to non-users.  These associations were even stronger and increased to 147 per cent in those adolescents who used mobile phones or watched television in the dark.

These findings are significant for parents, teachers, and health professionals and also for adolescents who need to be made aware of the outcomes of nighttime use of screens and the impact it can have on their sleep, their development and ultimately their health.

Source: Environment International


Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!