Screen time before bed puts children at risk of anxiety, obesity and poor sleep

Pre-teens who use a mobile phone or watch TV in the dark an hour before bed is at risk of not getting enough sleep.


Sufficient sleep duration and quality are vital in childhood to maintain physical and mental development. Sleep is also crucial for cognitive processes and a lack of sufficient sleep has been directly related to poor academic performance.

Night-time use of phones, tablets, and laptops is consistently associated with poor sleep quality, insufficient sleep, and poor perceived quality of life. Insufficient sleep has also been shown to be associated with impaired immune responses, depression, anxiety and obesity in children and adolescents.

A new study by the Imperial College London in collaboration with scientists from the University of Lincoln, Birkbeck University of London and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, Switzerland has examined the pre-sleep use of media devices with screens alongside the impact of room lighting conditions on sleep in pre-teens.

For the study, scientists gathered the data from 6,616 adolescents aged between 11 and 12 and more than 70 percent reported using at least one screen based device within one hour of their bedtime. They were asked to self-report a range of factors including their device use in both lit and darkened rooms, their weekday and weekend bedtimes, how difficult they found it to go to sleep and their wake up times.

The outcomes demonstrated that the adolescents who used a phone or sat in front of the TV in a stay with a light on were 31 percent bound to get less rest than the individuals who didn’t utilize a screen. The probability expanded to 147 percent if a similar movement occurred in obscurity.

Lead author, Dr. Michael Mireku, a researcher at the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology said: “While previous research has shown a link between screen use and the quality and length of young people’s sleep, ours is the first study to show how room lighting can further influence this.”

“Our findings are significant not only for parents but for teachers, health professionals, and adolescents themselves. We would recommend that these groups are made aware of the potential issues surrounding screen use during bedtime including insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality.”

The full study is published in the journal Environmental International.


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