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Cell phones and screens keep your child awake

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Appliances in the bedroom are linked to children’s loss of time and quality of sleep, new study finds

Even kids and teens who don’t stay up late online are losing sleep


These days, teachers are often faced with classrooms full of yawning students who have stayed up late taking selfies or playing online games.

For children and teens, the use of cell phones, tablets and computers at night is associated with a loss of sleep time and quality, according to new research. Even children who don’t use their phones or other technologies that litter their rooms at night are losing their eyes and becoming prone to daytime sleepiness, according to analysis published today in JAMA Pediatrics.

The analysis revealed “a consistent pattern of effect across a wide range of countries and settings”, said Dr Ben Carter, lead author and senior lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London.

Carter and colleagues sifted through the medical literature to identify hundreds of applicable studies conducted between January 1, 2011 and June 15, 2015. They chose 20 research reports involving a total of 125,198 children, evenly divided by sex, with an average age of 14 and a half. After extracting the relevant data, Carter and his co-authors performed their own meta-analysis.

Few parents will be surprised by the results: the team found a “strong and consistent association” between media device use at bedtime and insufficient sleep quantity, poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Surprisingly, however, Carter and her team found that children who didn’t use their devices in their bedrooms still had their sleep interrupted and were susceptible to the same problems. The lights and sounds emitted by the technology, as well as the content itself, can be too stimulating.

Although Carter admits that a weakness of the analysis was “how data was collected in primary studies: self-reported by parents and children,” many of us will likely recognize the habits of our own families reflected in the statistics.

A large-scale survey conducted in the United States by the National Sleep Foundation (PDF) reported in 2013 that 72% of all children and 89% of adolescents have at least one device in their sleep environment. Most of this technology is used close to bedtime, according to the same report.

According to Carter and his co-authors, this pervasive technology negatively influences children’s sleep by delaying their sleep time when they finish watching a movie or playing one more game.

The light emitted by these devices can also affect the circadian rhythm, the biological processes of internal clock synchronization, including body temperature and hormone release, the researchers explain. A specific hormone, melatonin, induces fatigue and contributes to the rhythm of our sleep-wake cycles. Electronic lights can delay the release of melatonin, disrupting this cycle and making it harder to fall asleep.

Carter and his co-authors also suggest that online content can be psychologically stimulating and keep children and teens awake long after they turn off their devices and try to sleep.

“Sleep is vital for children,” said Dr. Sujay Kansagra, director of the pediatric neurology sleep medicine program at Duke University Medical Center, who was not involved in the new analysis. “We know sleep plays a crucial role in brain development, memory, self-regulation, attention, immune function, cardiovascular health, and more.”

Kansagra, author of “My Child Won’t Sleep,” noted that the period of greatest brain development is in our first three years of life, which is when we need and sleep the most. “It’s hard to believe it would be a coincidence.”

Kansagra said it’s possible parents have underestimated children using devices at night, but more likely the technology is simply interfering with sleep hygiene. “For example, children who are allowed to keep devices in their bedroom may be more likely to avoid a good sleep routine, which we know is helpful for sleep,” he said.

Dr. Neil Kline, a representative of the American Sleep Association, agrees that sleep plays a vital role in a child’s healthy development, although “we don’t know all the science behind it. There is even research that demonstrates an association between ADHD and certain sleep disorders.

In many ways, the findings of the new study come as no surprise. “Sleep hygiene is dramatically affected by technology, especially in adolescence,” said Kline, who bases her opinion not just on research, but on her own “personal experience and also the anecdotes of many others. sleep experts.

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  • Sleep hygiene – tips that help facilitate continuous, adequate, quality sleep – include having a quiet bedroom. “And that would mean removing items that interfere with sleep, including electronics, television, and even pets if they interfere with sleep,” Kline said.

    Another big tip comes from the National Sleep Foundation, which recommends at least 30 minutes of “gadget-free transition time” before bedtime. Switch off for better sleep.

    Other recommendations for good sleep hygiene include not exercising (physical or mental) too close to bedtime; establish a regular sleep schedule; limit exposure to light before sleeping; avoiding stimulants like alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine in the hours before bedtime; and create a dark, comfortable and peaceful sleeping environment.

    Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.