Gadgets are harming sleep among teens

Teenagers could be putting themselves at risk of a range of psychological issues because they are spending too much time on electronic devices and not enough time sleeping, according to a new study at the University of Adelaide.

Researchers examined the electronic media and sleep habits of approximately 1,200 12 to 18-year-olds from seven different schools.

It was found that teenage boys spent more than three-and-a-half hours a day on tablets and smartphones during the week, as well as more than four-and-a-half hours per day at weekends. The corresponding figures for girls were three hours and three-and-three-quarter hours respectively.

One in ten teenagers admitted they were addicted to their screen-based devices.

In addition, 70 per cent of the participants were not getting enough sleep on school nights, with phones and computers delaying bedtimes, waking them up and making them take longer to get to sleep.

Past research has shown that the artificial lights on such devices could be responsible for the latter, as they disrupt the body's production of melatonin.

Writing in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, lead study author Dr Daniel King warned that a lack of sleep can lead to problems with learning and concentration and poor mental health.

"We believe it would be useful to develop public health guidelines to educate young people, parents and teachers about responsible use," he added.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Luci Wiggs comments:
"There is increasingly compelling evidence that insufficient quantity and/or quality of sleep in children has a negative impact on children’s daytime functioning in terms of their cognition, behaviour and academic success as well as their physical and mental health.

"The results of the current study highlight one of the factors which may be making a significant contribution to childhood sleep disturbance; use of electronic devices is typically arousing, both psychologically and physiologically, and further the nature of activities in which young people engage (games and social-media sites for example) often have no obvious 'end-point' making it more likely that young people will find it difficult to stop these activities when it's time for bed.

"Perhaps worryingly, it seems likely that the trend will be for electronic devices to feature more in all our lives in the future. So it is imperative that parents and children are aware of the importance of sleep and so can be motivated to take reasonable steps to minimise sleep disturbance associated with the use of electronic devices. For example, time-limiting the use of such equipment before bed and removing devices from the bedroom during the sleep period is likely to be beneficial."

Courtesy: BPA
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