Cell phones, screens keep your child awake

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For children and adolescents, the use of mobile phones, tablets and computers at night is associated with a loss of sleep time and quality, as new research shows. Even children who do not use their cell phones or other technologies that pollute their bedrooms at night lose their eyesight and become susceptible to daytime sleepiness, according to the analysis published today in JAMA Pediatrics.

The analysis revealed "a consistent pattern of action in a variety of countries and environments," said Dr. Ben Carter, lead author and lecturer in biostatistics at King & # 39; s College London.

Carter and his colleagues searched the medical literature for hundreds of relevant studies that were conducted between January 1, 2011 and June 15, 2015. They selected 20 research reports involving a total of 125,198 children with an average age of the same gender 14½ years. After extracting relevant data, Carter and his co-authors conducted their own meta-analysis.

Few parents will be surprised by the results: The team found a "strong and consistent relationship" between the use of media devices before bed and insufficient sleep, poor quality of sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Surprisingly, however, Carter and his team found that children who did not use their devices in their bedrooms were still sleeping and likely to have the same problems. The lights and sounds emitted by the technology and the content itself can be too stimulating.

Although Carter admits that a weakness of the analysis was "how the data in the primary studies was collected: reported by parents and children themselves", many of us are likely to recognize the habits of our own families, which are reflected in the statistics.

Electronic bedroom

A large-scale survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (PDF) in the United States in 2013 found that 72% of all children and 89% of adolescents have at least one device in their sleeping environment. Most of this technology is used almost before bed, as the same report revealed.

According to Carter and his co-authors, this ubiquitous technology negatively affects children's sleep by delaying their sleep time when they watch a movie or play another game.

Light emitted by these devices can also affect circadian rhythm and biological timing processes, including body temperature and hormone release, the researchers explain. A certain hormone, melatonin, triggers fatigue and contributes to the timing of our sleep-wake cycles. Electronic lights can delay the release of melatonin, interrupt this cycle and make it difficult to fall asleep.

How early bedtime can have a lasting impact on children

Carter and his co-authors also suggest that online content could be psychologically stimulating and could keep children and teenagers awake well after the hour when they turn off their devices and try to sleep.

"Sleep is vital for children," said Dr. Sujay Kansagra, director of the pediatric neurology sleep medicine program at Duke University Medical Center, who was not involved in the new analysis. "We know that sleep plays a critical role in brain development, memory, self-regulation, attention, immune function, cardiovascular health, and more."

Kansagra, author of "My Child Won't Sleep," noted that the period of greatest brain development is in our first three years of life, which is when we need and get the most sleep. "It is hard to believe that this would be a coincidence."

Kansagra said that it is possible that parents report too little to children who use devices at night. However, it is more likely that the technology will simply affect sleep hygiene. "For example, children who are allowed to keep equipment in their room may be more likely to avoid a good sleep routine that we know is helpful for sleep," he said.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Dr. Neil Kline, a representative of the American Sleep Association, agrees that sleep plays an essential role in a child's healthy development, even though "we don't know the whole science behind it. There is even research that shows a connection between ADHD and some sleep disorders. "

In many ways, the results of the new study come as no surprise. "Sleep hygiene is heavily influenced by technology, especially in the teenage years," said Kline, who relies not only on research, but also on "his personal experience and anecdotes from many other sleep experts."

Sleep hygiene – tips that contribute to a good, continuous and adequate sleep – include that the room is quiet. "And that would mean removing items that disrupt sleep, including electronics, TVs, and even pets, if they disrupt sleep," said Kline.
Another important tip comes from the National Sleep Foundation, which recommends at least 30 minutes of "gadget-free transition time" before going to bed. Turn off the computer to sleep better.

Other recommendations for good sleep hygiene are: Do not exercise (physically or mentally) too shortly before bed. Drawing up a regular sleep schedule; Limitation of light exposure before bedtime; Avoid stimulants like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in the hours before bedtime; and create a dark, comfortable and peaceful sleeping environment.