We don’t know many teens who don’t love staring at screens, whether those screens are attached to TVs, computers, tablets, or smartphones. New research is confirming, however, just how damaging those screens can be to teen sleep.
Researchers surveyed more than 10,000 16-to-19-year-olds from Norway, questioning them about their use of electronics and sleeping habits. Those who used gadgets including MP3 players, video game consoles, tablets, smartphones, and computers for more than five hours a day were three and a half times more likely to sleep for fewer than five hours at night and nearly 50 percent likelier to need more than an hour to get to sleep.
Respondents who used computers or smartphones during the last 60 minutes before bed were 53 percent and 35 percent more likely, respectively, to miss out on two or more hours of sleep, with smaller risks reported for those using tablets, TVs, video game consoles, and MP3 players.
The next question is what is causing this problem? The researchers aren’t drawing definitive conclusions right now. One obvious culprit could be blue light, which is emitted by the types of screens used in most consumer electronics devices. This type of light tells your brain that it’s time to wake up, and can make sleeping difficult. Smartphones and tablets are generally considered the worst when it comes to blue light devices, because they’re usually fairly close to the user’s eyes.
If your teen is having trouble sleeping, instituting a no screens policy for an hour or so before bedtime may be a good place to start.