Back in November, we reported the findings of a study that detailed how using electronic devices before bed disrupted sleep in children. Researchers from King’s College London said that even the presence of a media device could negatively affect sleep.
However, despite these and other findings, a new study shows that a large number of adolescents are still getting insufficient sleep due to electronic devices and social media. If not corrected, the researchers believe that the habit of checking devices at night could lead to poorer overall health.
"Our research shows that a small but significant number of children and young people say that they often go to school feeling tired -- and these are the same young people who also have the lowest levels of wellbeing,” said lead author Professor Sally Power.
A pervasive problem
The study examined over 900 young people between the ages of 12 and 15. Each person was asked to complete a questionnaire which asked how often they woke up at night to log into or check social media sites.
The responses showed that one out of every five participants “almost always” woke up during the night to check on their social media accounts. These respondents, as well as those who didn’t wake up at a regular time every morning, were three times more likely to report being tired at school and less happy when compared to their peers.
While around a fifth of respondents said they woke up every night to check social media, a third of respondents admitted to doing it at least once a week, suggesting that the problem may be more widespread than previously thought. “Use of social media appears to be invading the 'sanctuary' of the bedroom," commented Power.
Teens are especially susceptible to health problems related to lack of sleep because their bodies are still growing and changing. They include increased risk of obesity, sedative behavior, stunted growth, and reduced immune system function, as well as sleeping disorders like narcolepsy, insomnia, and sleep apnea.
“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,” said Dr. Ben Carter.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that teens get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night. Making sure that a regular sleep pattern is kept is extremely important so that they can maintain their internal clock and function optimally.
The full study has been published in the Journal of Youth Studies.