Screen Time Before Bed Puts Children at Risk of Anxiety, Obesity and Poor Sleep

Summary: A new study reports children and pre-teens who are exposed to screen time in the dark an hour before sleep are more likely to have sleep disturbances, a higher risk of anxiety and may be more prone to obesity.

Source: Imperial College London.

Pre-teens who use a mobile phone or watch TV in the dark an hour before bed are at risk of not getting enough sleep, a new study reveals.

The risk is comparatively lower for children who use these devices in a lit room or do not use them at all before bedtime.

Pre-sleep device use

The study by researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Lincoln, Birkbeck University of London and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, Switzerland is the first to analyse the pre-sleep use of media devices with screens alongside the impact of room lighting conditions on sleep in pre-teens.

They found that night-time use of phones, tablets and laptops is consistently associated with poor sleep quality, insufficient sleep, and poor perceived quality of life. Insufficient sleep has also been shown to be associated with impaired immune responses, depression, anxiety and obesity in children and adolescents.

Data was collected from 6,616 adolescents aged between 11 and 12 and more than 70 per cent reported using at least one screen based device within one hour of their bedtime. They were asked to self-report a range of factors including their device use in both lit and darkened rooms, their weekday and weekend bedtimes, how difficult they found it to go to sleep and their wake up times.

The results showed that those who used a phone or watched television in a room with a light on were 31 per cent more likely to get less sleep than those who didn’t use a screen. The likelihood increased to 147 per cent if the same activity took place in the dark.

a child looking at a tablet in the dark


They found that night-time use of phones, tablets and laptops is consistently associated with poor sleep quality, insufficient sleep, and poor perceived quality of life. Insufficient sleep has also been shown to be associated with impaired immune responses, depression, anxiety and obesity in children and adolescents. NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the Imperial College London news release.

It has been reported that globally, 90 per cent of adolescents are not sleeping the recommended nine to 11 hours per night, which has coincided with an increase in the use of screen-based media devices. In the UK alone, it is estimated that 98 per cent of 12 to 15 year olds watch television and over 90 per cent use mobile phones at home.

Vital sleep duration and quality

Previous studies have shown that sufficient sleep duration and quality are vital in childhood to maintain physical and mental development. Sleep is also crucial for cognitive processes and a lack of sufficient sleep has been directly related to poor academic performance.

Lead author, Dr Michael Mireku, a researcher at the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology said: “While previous research has shown a link between screen use and the quality and length of young people’s sleep, ours is the first study to show how room lighting can further influence this.

“Our findings are significant not only for parents but for teachers, health professionals and adolescents themselves. We would recommend that these groups are made aware of the potential issues surrounding screen use during bedtime including insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality.”

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Joanna Wilson – Imperial College London
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the Imperial College London news release.
Original Research: Open access research for “Night-time screen-based media device use and adolescents’ sleep and health-related quality of life” by Michael O. Mireku, Mary M. Barker, Julian Mutz, Iroise Dumontheil, Michael S. C. Thomas, Martin Röösli, Paul Elliott, a,d Mireille B. Toledano in Environment International. Published January 109 2019.
doi:10.1016/j.envint.2018.11.069

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
Imperial College London”Screen Time Before Bed Puts Children at Risk of Anxiety, Obesity and Poor Sleep.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 28 January 2019.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/screen-time-bed-anxiety-10646/>.
Imperial College London(2019, January 28). Screen Time Before Bed Puts Children at Risk of Anxiety, Obesity and Poor Sleep. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved January 28, 2019 from http://neurosciencenews.com/screen-time-bed-anxiety-10646/
Imperial College London”Screen Time Before Bed Puts Children at Risk of Anxiety, Obesity and Poor Sleep.” http://neurosciencenews.com/screen-time-bed-anxiety-10646/ (accessed January 28, 2019).

Abstract

Night-time screen-based media device use and adolescents’ sleep and health-related quality of life

Objective
The present study investigates the relationship between night-time screen-based media devices (SBMD) use, which refers to use within 1 h before sleep, in both lit and dark rooms, and sleep outcomes and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) among 11 to 12-year-olds.

Methods
We analysed baseline data from a large cohort of 6616 adolescents from 39 schools in and around London, United Kingdom, participating in the Study of Cognition Adolescents and Mobile Phone (SCAMP). Adolescents self-reported their use of any SBMD (mobile phone, tablet, laptop, television etc.). Sleep variables were derived from self-reported weekday and/or weekend bedtime, sleep onset latency (SOL) and wake time. Sleep quality was assessed using four standardised dimensions from the Swiss Health Survey. HRQoL was estimated using the KIDSCREEN-10 questionnaire.

Results
Over two-thirds (71.5%) of adolescents reported using at least one SBMD at night-time, and about a third (32.2%) reported using mobile phones at night-time in darkness. Night-time mobile phone and television use was associated with higher odds of insufficient sleep duration on weekdays (Odds Ratio, OR = 1.82, 95% Confidence Interval, CI [1.59, 2.07] and OR = 1.40, 95% CI [1.23, 1.60], respectively). Adolescents who used mobile phones in a room with light were more likely to have insufficient sleep (OR = 1.32, 95% CI [1.10, 1.60]) and later sleep midpoint (OR = 1.64, 95% CI [1.37, 1.95]) on weekends compared to non-users. The magnitude of these associations was even stronger for those who used mobile phones in darkness for insufficient sleep duration on weekdays (OR = 2.13, 95% CI [1.79, 2.54]) and for later sleep midpoint on weekdays (OR = 3.88, 95% CI [3.25, 4.62]) compared to non-users. Night-time use of mobile phones was associated with lower HRQoL and use in a dark room was associated with even lower KIDSCREEN-10 score (β = –1.18, 95% CI [–1.85, –0.52]) compared to no use.

Conclusions
We found consistent associations between night-time SBMD use and poor sleep outcomes and worse HRQoL in adolescents. The magnitude of these associations was stronger when SBMD use occurred in a dark room versus a lit room.

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