Sleep Study Part 8: The Effect of “Screen Time” on Your Child’s Sleep

young girl using tablet pc in bed

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that kids who had more “screen time”, consisting of watching TV, using the computer, or playing video games before going to bed fell asleep later than children and teens who had less screen time. On the other hand, the kids who had more time away from electronics, fell asleep earlier overall.

While the exact causes of screen time and sleep disturbances are unknown, a few theories exist. First, some evidence suggests that some electronics, like video games, when played induce a sense of fight-or-flight syndrome in some people, placing the body in a stressful state.

Other thoughts are that the artificial brightness of the electronics screen before bedtime disrupts the body’s natural sleep cycles, or circadian rhythm. “There is a suggestion that TV affects sleep hormones because screens emit blue light and that could delay sleep onset,” says Louise Foley, who was a research fellow at the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland when conducting the study.

There’s also the thought that electromagnetic radiation, or EMR, is produced by any electronic device, which disrupts the release of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Kids Sleep and Screen Time Study Details

Researchers from Australia and New Zealand examined the use of electronics in more than 2,000 teens and children with an age range from five to 18 years. In conducting their study, the childrens’ activity was analyzed in the 90 minutes prior to falling asleep. As a whole, approximately 30 minutes of screen time occurred during the kids pre-sleep activities. The most common “screen time” activity the children participated in was watching TV. Children who fell asleep later were noted to have watched 13 more minutes of television than their children-who-watched-less-TV counterparts.

Kids Sleep and Screen Time Study Conclusion

The authors note that parents who intervene and “reduce screen-based behaviors in the pre-sleep period may promote earlier sleep onset and ultimately improved sleep duration in young people.”

stop using electronics 1 hour before bed

Practical Tips Parents Can Implement to Reduce Screen Time

It’s clear that parents should make a conscious effort to reduce their children’s use of electronics prior to bedtime to keep them from being wired and tired.

  • Keep all electronics out of the bedroom. This includes the TV, cell phones, video game players, computers, and tablets. While this option may be resisted by teens in today’s social-crazed environment, they’ll thank you when they feel well-rested everyday — and get accepted to that dream college of their choice.
  • Implement a technology curfew. Set a technology curfew to allow young children and teens to use their electrical devices until that time. By setting this curfew, you give your kids a chance to wind down mentally before bed. Powering down at least one hour before bed is a good rule of thumb.

While it may be a struggle to get your child on-board to reduce his or her electronics habit before bed, it’s definitely a struggle worth having.

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