Prolonged exposure to smartphones and tablets affect sleep

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A new study showed that prolonged exposure to smartphones, TVs, computers, and tablets before bedtime can affect the sleeping patterns of teenagers.

The researchers, who studied 10,000 16-to-19-year-olds in Norway, found that young people who spend longer times looking at an electronic screen prior to going to bed were most likely to have poor quality sleep.

Teenagers who spent longer than four hours per day looking at electronic screens had a 49 per cent risk of taking longer than one hour to fall asleep. They were also 3.5 times more likely to sleep for fewer than five hours per night.

The researchers found that nearly all of the teenagers who took part in the study, which was published in BMJ Open, indicated that they used one or more electronic device within one hour of going to bed. Excessive computer use and TV viewing have been previously linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression among children.

Researchers noted that watching TV and messaging friends online might also interfere with the body’s internal clock or stimulate the nervous system.

Therefore, the researchers recommend that health authorities update guidelines on the healthy use of electronic devices, taking into account the growing use of tablets and smartphones.

“Parents should be aware of the use of all types of electronic devices in the bedroom,” said Dr Mari Hysing of Uni Research Health. “At a minimum, keep the night-time screen-free in the bedroom, and ideally be logged off an hour or so before they go to sleep.”

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