Electronic device screens, enemies of adolescent sleep

The duration and quality of sleep during childhood must be sufficient as it affects cognitive processes, academic performance, and physical development. A study highlights the negative effects of electronic devices before sleep, especially in poorly lit rooms.

Electronic device screen use in dark rooms prior to bedtime worsens the quality of sleep

In order to allow optimal physical and mental development, the duration and quality of sleep during childhood must be sufficient. Sleep also affects cognitive processes in younger children, and lack of sleep can be a cause of poor academic performance. A study highlights the negative effects of using electronic devices before going to sleep, especially if this happens in poorly lit rooms.

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Screens and monitors are increasingly present in everyone's lives. This is a relatively new phenomenon, the potential negative impact of which on health has not yet been clearly established, even though it is increasingly the subject of scientific research. An even more sensitive issue is often raised, namely the consequences for children and adolescents. It is assumed that the latter may suffer the greatest damage due to the immaturity of their nervous system.

A team of British and Swiss researchers investigated what effects the use of smartphones, tablets, and computers in poorly-lit rooms can have on pre-adolescents' sleep before going to sleep. The study showed that night-time use of these devices is systematically associated with lower sleep quality. Sleep deprivation in children and adolescents is a factor that promotes obesity, immune system dysfunction and the development of depression and anxiety.

To conduct this study, data were collected from 6,616 adolescents between the ages of 11 and 12. More than 70% of them reported using an electronic device in the hour before bedtime. They were then asked about a number of factors: the lighting conditions in the room, the way nights take place on weekdays and weekends, the level of difficulty in falling asleep and the time of awakening. The results showed that people who use mobile phones or other devices (television, computer, tablet) in a bright room are 31% more likely to sleep less than people who fall asleep without using electronic devices.

The increase in the use of multimedia devices by adolescents has brought to over 90% the percentage of adolescents who do not sleep the 9-11 hours per night recommended.

The author of the study, Dr. Michael Mireku, a researcher at Lincoln University, said: "While previous research has linked the use of light screens to the quality and duration of sleep in young people, our study is the first to show how this could be affected by the lighting conditions in which the screens are used. Our results are important not only for parents, teachers, health workers but also for the teenagers themselves.

Mireku MO, Barker MM, Mutz J, Dumontheil I, Thomas MSC, Röösli M, Elliott P, Toledano MB. Night-time screen-based media device use and adolescents' sleep and health-related quality of life.  Environ Int. 2019 Mar;124:66-78. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2018.11.069. Epub 2019 Jan 10.