We’ve all been kept awake at night thinking of the days activities or things we are looking forward to in the future.
A new study has shown that smartphones may be another factor to think about when it comes to factors that can disrupt sleep patterns – and this is particularly the case when it comes to children.
The study, which was led by researchers from King’s College London, revealed that children have a higher risk of a disrupted night’s sleep if they use electronic devices such as smartphones or media tablets before bedtime compared to those who refrain from use in the late hours of the evening.
According to previous research, 72 per cent of children and 89 per cent of adolescents keep at least one device in their bedrooms – and most of these are used near bedtime. However, the speed at which the uptake of these devices has increased and the technological development of these products outpaces the quantity of research produced in the area, meaning that the impact on sleep is not very well understood.
The new data takes the form of a review of 20 existing studies from four continents. It has been published in the scientific journal JAMA Pediatrics and analysed data captured from 125,000 children aged 6-19, with an average age of 15.
It was established by the researchers that bedtime use of media devices was associated with an increased likelihood of both a lower amount of sleep and poorer quality of sleep, in addition to excessive daytime sleepiness. For the purposes of the data, bedtime use was classified as engagement with a device within 90 minutes of going to sleep.
A media device being present in the bedroom – even without use – was also associated with a higher chance of poor sleep. Rather than this being the result of any direct effect, it was suggested that one potential reason for this trend was that the ‘always on’ nature of social media and instant messaging means young people are always engaged with these devices in their environment, even when they are not in active use.
King’s College London’s Dr Ben Carter said: “Our study provides further proof of the detrimental effect of media devices on both sleep duration and quality.
“Sleep is an often undervalued but important part of children’s development, with a regular lack of sleep causing a variety of health problems. With the ever growing popularity of portable media devices and their use in schools as a replacement for textbooks, the problem of poor sleep amongst children is likely to get worse.
“Our findings suggest that an integrated approach involving parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals is necessary to reduce access to these devices and encourage good sleeping habits near bedtime.”