Children's sleep disruption is worse with increased time spent watching TV or playing on the computer, finds research in Biomed Central's open access journal BMC Public Health. The greater the e-media use was at the start of the study, the shorter the sleep duration and the later the bedtime was eighteen months later. The academics suggest that where children are struggling to sleep, or are tired, their media habits should be taken into consideration.
The amount of sleep children get has a direct bearing on their performance in school and their mental and physical health. Snap shot studies suggest that the more kids use electronic media the less sleep they get, and that their sleep is more likely to be disturbed. But how much does watching TV or playing on the computer affect sleep patterns as children grow up?
To answer this question researchers from Folkhδlsan Research Center, Finland, compared computer use and TV viewing with sleep patterns in 10-11 year olds and then reassessed them eighteen months later. Children with a TV or computer in their bedroom, compared with the frequency of usage, demonstrated a greater delay when going to bed on school days and the weekend which resulted in less sleep. However girls may be catching up at the weekends as they tended to sleep in more as they got older.
When the researchers looked at boys and girls separately they found that there were other gender differences -- boys with a computer or TV in their bedroom went to bed later than the girls and had a larger increase in bed time.
Teija Nuutinen, who led this study commented, "Children need extra sleep as they go through puberty but our study finds that TV and computer use affect the sleep of children. This is especially true during the week and may be impacting their school work as well as their development. Media viewing habits should be considered for kids who are tired and struggling to concentrate, or who have behaviour problems caused by lack of sleep."
- Teija Nuutinen, Carola Ray, Eva Roos. Do computer use, TV viewing, and the presence of the media in the bedroom predict school-aged children's sleep habits in a longitudinal study. BMC Public Health, 2013; 13 (1): 684 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-684
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