Bedtime media use linked to less sleep in children who struggle to self-regulate behavior

June 23, 2020

For some children, screen time before bed translates to less sleep.

According to a study from the Arizona State University Department of Psychology, media use in the hour preceding bedtime impacts how kids sleep, especially children who struggle to self-regulate their behavior. Frequent media use before bed in these children predicted later bedtimes and less sleep. The work is now available online in Psychological Science.

"Among kids who used the same amount of media in the hour before bed, we found differences that were explained by a personality characteristic called effortful control," said Leah Doane, associate professor of psychology at ASU and senior author on the paper. "Kids who score low on measures of effortful control are the ones who struggle to wait to unwrap a present or are easily distracted. We found a strong association between media use in the hour before bed and when these kids went to sleep and how long they slept. Media use before bed was not associated with the sleep of kids who scored high on measures of effortful control."

The research team spent a week following 547 children, aged 7-9 years. The participant group was socioeconomically diverse and lived in rural and urban areas. The parents kept daily diaries that tracked the children's media use and sleep patterns. They also completed a survey that asked about their children's temperament, including their ability to self-regulate behavior.

For the entire week, the children wore specialized wrist watches called actigraphs that tracked their movement and also ambient light. The actigraph data gave the research team detailed information about when and how long the children slept.

The children slept an average of 8 hours a night and used media before bed for an average of 5 nights during the study week. Children who did not use media before bed during the study week slept 23 minutes more and went to bed 34 minutes earlier than children who used media most nights during the study week.

"Media use was generally associated with a shorter sleep duration, but this effect was most pronounced in children with low effortful control," said Sierra Clifford, a research scientist at ASU and first author on the paper. "The impact of media on sleep was also an average affect, meaning that it reflects habitual media use rather than occasionally staying up late to watch a movie."

The children who scored low on measures of effortful control slept the least amount of time when they consistently used media in the hour before bed during the study week. These children slept approximately 40 minutes less per night. Media use before bed did not affect the sleep of children who scored high on effortful control, which was approximately 35 percent of the study participants.

"Media exposure mattered for the children who measured lowest in effortful control," Clifford said.

Children with low effortful control might struggle with switching their attention from watching media before bed to calming down and falling asleep. But because effortful control is a personality characteristic, it is more difficult to change.

"Instead of parents wondering how to help their child better regulate their behavior, they can try to focus on creating more consistent sleep and media use schedules," Doane said.
-end-
This study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The data were from the Arizona Twin Project, which is led by ASU's Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant, Mary Davis and Doane. Reagan Breitenstein, who earned her doctorate at ASU, Kevin Grimm, professor of psychology, and Lemery-Chalfant also contributed to the study.

Arizona State University

Related Sleep Articles from Brightsurf:

Size and sleep: New research reveals why little things sleep longer
Using data from humans and other mammals, a team of scientists including researchers from the Santa Fe Institute has developed one of the first quantitative models that explains why sleep times across species and during development decrease as brains get bigger.

Wind turbine noise affects dream sleep and perceived sleep restoration
Wind turbine noise (WTN) influences people's perception of the restorative effects of sleep, and also has a small but significant effect on dream sleep, otherwise known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a study at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows.

To sleep deeply: The brainstem neurons that regulate non-REM sleep
University of Tsukuba researchers identified neurons that promote non-REM sleep in the brainstem in mice.

Chronic opioid therapy can disrupt sleep, increase risk of sleep disorders
Patients and medical providers should be aware that chronic opioid use can interfere with sleep by reducing sleep efficiency and increasing the risk of sleep-disordered breathing, according to a position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

'Short sleep' gene prevents memory deficits associated with sleep deprivation
The UCSF scientists who identified the two known human genes that promote 'natural short sleep' -- nightly sleep that lasts just four to six hours but leaves people feeling well-rested -- have now discovered a third, and it's also the first gene that's ever been shown to prevent the memory deficits that normally accompany sleep deprivation.

Short sleep duration and sleep variability blunt weight loss
High sleep variability and short sleep duration are associated with difficulties in losing weight and body fat.

Nurses have an increased risk of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation
According to preliminary results of a new study, there is a high prevalence of insufficient sleep and symptoms of common sleep disorders among medical center nurses.

Common sleep myths compromise good sleep and health
People often say they can get by on five or fewer hours of sleep, that snoring is harmless, and that having a drink helps you to fall asleep.

Sleep tight! Researchers identify the beneficial role of sleep
Why do animals sleep? Why do humans 'waste' a third of their lives sleeping?

Does extra sleep on the weekends repay your sleep debt? No, researchers say
Insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders put people at increased risk for metabolic problems, including obesity and diabetes.

Read More: Sleep News and Sleep Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.