Take a look if you have at least one electronic device in your and your kids' bedrooms. Chances are, you probably have a TV or a smartphone in the room with you even during bedtime. Based on a 2013 study, 72 percent of children and 89 percent of adolescents in the U.S. have a minimum of one device in their bedrooms. It's probably not so different here in our country.
Yes, the American Academy of Pediatrician released a new and more relaxed screen time guidelines for kids, but there's another study that will (again) make you think twice about letting your child have screen time, specifically in their bedroom. The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics found that media devices used before bedtime contribute to children's reduced sleep quality. It’s the first systematic review and meta-analysis to include a robust quality assessment of the association of media device access and use with poor sleep outcomes.
Researchers led by Dr. Ben Carter, a senior lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London, analyzed 20 relevant studies involving over 125,000 children between the ages of 6 and 19 and with an average age of 15 and found a "strong and consistent association" between tech use at bedtime or in the bedroom and inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Dr. Carter says the results show "a consistent pattern of effect across a wide range of countries and settings.
Using gadgets before bedtime -- say for example, watching a movie or playing an app game -- has serious adverse effects in kids -- they have trouble sleeping as well as staying awake the next day. In the study, kids who use devices within 90 minutes of going to bed are twice as likely to have problems getting enough sleep, and are likely to have 40 percent decrease in sleep quality.
Surprisingly, the new study also notes that children who did not use their devices in their bedrooms still had their sleep interrupted and were likely to suffer the same problems. Forty percent of the kids who have devices but do not use them in the bedroom are still 40-percent likely to not get enough sleep and 50-percent more likely not to sleep well. This means that even if the devices are not turned on or used before sleep, they could still affect the kids' quality of sleep.
The researchers claim that the devices' content can be psychologically stimulating, keeping children and teens awake far past the hour when they turn off their devices and try to sleep. "One possible theory might be increased continued mental stimulation preventing sleep,” Dr. Carter told Quartz. The ‘always on’ nature of social media and instant messaging could mean that children are continuously engaged with their devices even when they are not actively using them. "If the first thing you do in the morning and last thing you do at night is check your device, that’s linking to addiction behavior, he added.
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Past research had also proven that the light these electronic devices emit can delay the release of melatonin, the hormone that induces tiredness and contributes to the timing of our sleep-wake cycles. The delay disrupts the body's sleep cycle, making it harder for the kids to fall asleep, and thus, they also wake up tired and sleepy the next day.
"Sleep is an often undervalued but important part of children's development, with a regular lack of sleep causing a variety of health problems," Dr. Carter said in a statement. Poor sleep has been proven to be a factor if a child’s poor diet, stunted growth, obesity, and reduced immune system functions, and mental health issues. Cognitively, disrupted sleep could also hinder learning, memory retention and coulr affect a child's emotions and behaviors.
For tips on how your kids can get a good night's sleep, click here.