New Study Finds Late Night Electronics Increase Insomnia in Children and Teens

child and insomnia

A new study published in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics finds that electronic gadgets—such as TV, video games, and computers—increase the time it takes for children and teenagers to fall asleep, increasing their risk for insomnia and symptoms of daytime sleepiness. The study, which took place at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, was led by Dr. Louise Foley. The researchers tracked the habits of 2,016 participants between the ages of 5 and 18. Participants reported their activities for the 90 minutes prior to sleep, which were then categorized into 3 groups: 1) Self-care 2) Non-screen sedentary time & 3) Screen sedentary time. Researchers found that the children and teenagers who spent the majority of their time before bed engaged in “screen sedentary time” had more difficulty falling asleep than those who were listed under categories 1 and 2.

The study’s findings reveal a serious problem that goes beyond trouble falling asleep. Prolonged time needed for sleep onset is an indication that your child may also be suffering from sleep deficits. A few extra minutes each night of wakefulness accumulates to hours of missed sleep each week. According to sleep professionals and the National Sleep Foundation, children and teenagers must have more sleep than their adult counterparts. Adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night while children and teenagers require 9 to 11 hours of nightly sleep for body and brain rejuvenation.

The study’s findings indicate a critical need for ensuring adequate sleep duration in children and teenagers, especially when paired with the evidence from other studies linking insufficient sleep to behavioral problems. One cause for heightened wakefulness after extended “screen sedentary time” is the body’s reaction to the blue/green light that electronics emit. The body’s circadian rhythm—its internal clock—is disrupted by the blue/green light from electronics and slows the release of hormones that induce sleep. As a result of limited sleep, your child will suffer from symptoms of daytime sleepiness that include:

  • Grogginess
  • Lowered attention span
  • Decreased short-term memory
  • Irritability

Below are a few tips to help your children get the restful, restorative sleep their young bodies and minds need.

Tips for Helping Your Children Get the Rest They Require:

Have a nightly bedtime routine that excludes stimulating electronics at least 90 minutes prior to sleep.

Complete all physical activities at least 2 hours before your child’s bedtime.

Eliminate districting lights and noise as much as possible in your child’s room, especially bedside clocks and other reminders of daytime activities.

Nighttime activities immediately before bed can include reading, journaling, or listening to soothing music.

Increase time spent outdoors—sunlight regulates the body’s circadian rhythm and ensures that sleep inducing hormones are released at night.

Cut out the caffeine by the late afternoon hours. With the upsurge in energy drinks, it is important to make sure that your child stops drinking them well before bed.