Did your son or daughter just get a new smartphone or tablet from Santa? If so, you may find that your child isn’t sleeping as well.
A new study conducted at the University of California in Berkeley, and published in the journal Pediatrics, indicated that children who sleep with a smartphone or other handheld device slept less during the week and were more tired during the day.
The research looked at more than 2,000 elementary and middle school-aged children. The children were in the fourth or seventh grades in one of 29 schools. More than two-thirds of the children were white, and roughly one-fifth were Hispanic. All were asked about electronic devices in the bedroom, what time they went to bed, what time they woke up, and how many days over the prior week they felt they needed more sleep.
The study found that the effect of having a small screen device in the child’s bedroom was even worse than having a television in the bedroom. Not only are smartphones and tablets easier to turn on and use in the middle of the night than a TV, they also emit noises and alerts that can disrupt sleep. Additionally, they’re held closer to the face when used. Modern screens like those used in smartphones emit blue light, which triggers the brain that it’s time to wake up.
Children in the study with a TV in their room slept 18 minutes per night less sleep than those who didn’t. Children who slept with a smartphone or tablet nearby slept nearly 21 minutes less, regardless of whether they also had a TV in the room or not.
So, what’s a parent to do? The best thing is to have a “curfew” for the electronics devices. They should be removed from the bedroom when it’s time for the children to go to sleep, or (preferably) a half hour or so before. The only other good alternative is to require that the devices are completely powered off, but that may be too much temptation for some children. These rules are good ones for adults to have as well.