Several recent studies find that children and teens’ use of mobile digital devices at bedtime is a “major public health concern.”
Devices such as smartphones present a new challenge to healthy sleep because of the way they facilitate real-time, continuous psychological and physiological arousal and stimulation. Children who use portable media devices at bedtime are about twice as likely to not sleep enough and more than 40 percent more likely to report poor sleep quality, compared to children who do not have access to a device.
In addition, the light-emitting diodes, or LEDS, which contain a large proportion of blue light, are more “biologically potent” – twice as effective at resetting the brain’s circadian clock – as incandescent light. Students exposed to even brief periods of blue light late in the day show delayed release in melatonin and up to a two-hour delay in sleep time.
These results are particularly alarming if you consider that nearly 75 percent of children and 89 percent of adolescents have at least one device in their sleep environment, with most of them used in the hour before sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
What are the effects of bedtime electronics use? Chiefly, inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Researchers report that even small sleep deficits have been found to not only hinder students’ learning and memory, but also to increase their risks of depression, obesity, and getting into car accidents. Sleep disturbances in childhood have been associated with other problems such as poor diet, sedentary behavior, obesity, reduced immunity, and substance abuse.
We live in a digital age and the use of electronics is a part of daily life. But clearly, adults and children alike are best served by limiting exposure to electronic devices during the hours before bedtime.
If you would like to read more, we suggest two articles published by Education Week: