In recent years, bedtime stories have gotten a new rival: media devices. As children have become more infatuated with screens, many have developed an affinity for using smartphones and tablets before bed.
To reach this finding, researchers from King’s College London reviewed 20 existing studies from four continents. Children in the studies ranged in age from 6 to 19 (the median age was 15). They found that when kids used media devices within 90 minutes of going to sleep, the likelihood of inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness increased.
The researchers also found that the mere presence of a media device could affect sleep. Simply having a media device in the bedroom, even if it was not used, was found to increase the likelihood of poor sleep.
Why might media devices have this effect on children’s sleep? It could potentially be chalked up to the very nature of social media and instant messaging, the researchers say.
How sleep affects health
“Sleep is an often undervalued but important part of children’s development, with a regular lack of sleep causing a variety of health problems. With the ever-growing popularity of portable media devices and their use in schools as a replacement for textbooks, the problem of poor sleep amongst children is likely to get worse,” Carter said.
“Our findings suggest that an integrated approach involving parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals is necessary to reduce access to these devices and encourage good sleeping habits near bedtime,” Carter said.