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Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Smartphones, Tablets Keep Kids Buzzing at Bedtime

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(Cottage Health photo via Shutterstock)

Smartphones, tablets and other portable media devices can harm children’s sleep, a new study suggests.

Researchers reviewed a number of studies and found an association between children’s use of these devices at bedtime and insufficient sleep, poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness.

“Contrary to popular belief, media devices are more stimulating to the brain and not the best tool to use to calm down or relax before bedtime,” said Kelly MacDonald, a speech language pathologist at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and Cottage Children’s Medical Center.

“This can affect children’s sleep patterns at night and ultimately set them back at school the next day.”

But that’s not all.

“Teachers have reported evening media use especially with violent content can lead to a state of anxiety resulting in nightmares, frequent wakeful periods and not being able to get back to sleep,” MacDonald added.

The new British study was led by Ben Carter of King’s College London. His team looked at the data from 20 prior studies on the issue of kids’ sleep quality and media use, involving a total of more than 125,000 youngsters with an average age of 14 years.

Carter’s group found that kids didn’t even have to actively use smartphones, tablets or other electronic devices to experience sleep troubles — just having them in their bedrooms was enough to show an effect.

Although the study couldn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers recommend steps to limit access to electronic devices at night.

“In the healthy child and especially teenagers the body is growing and changing at such a rapid rate that as much as 9-10 hours per night is needed to support that growth, said Carla Griffith DPT, Cottage Health’s director of Therapy Services at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

“This is really a challenge when the child/teen’s bedroom is filled with media devices that, when activated, shine a light that makes the brain perceive it is morning.”

Griffith explained that coupled with the peer pressure to stay connected on social media throughout the night makes waking up the next morning to function physically, mentally and emotionally very difficult for children.

Experts say children are averaging more like eight hours of sleep a night, some even less. To allow better “sleep hygiene,” children and especially teens should find another time to play media games, do homework on the computer or read from a tablet rather than late in the evening before bed.

Regular exercise during the day is always a good recommendation for better sleep, as well.


The findings were published online Oct. 31 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Sources: Henry Bernstein M.D., a pediatrician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

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