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Bedtime use of media devices more than doubles the risk of poor sleep in children

October 31, 2016

Children using devices such as smartphones and tablets at bedtime have over double the risk of a disrupted night's sleep compared to children without access to such devices, according to a new study led by researchers from King's College London.

Previous research suggests that 72 per cent of children and 89 per cent of adolescents have at least one device in their bedrooms and most are used near bedtime. The speed at which these devices have developed - and their growing popularity among families - has outpaced research in this area, meaning that the impact on sleep is not well understood.

This new research, published today in JAMA Pediatrics, is a review of 20 existing studies from four continents, involving more than 125,000 children aged 6-19 (with an average age of 15).

The researchers from King's found that bedtime use of media devices was associated with an increased likelihood of inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Bedtime use was classified as engagement with a device within 90 minutes of going to sleep.

They also found that the presence of a media device in the bedroom, even without use, was associated with an increased likelihood of poor sleep. One potential reason for this is that the 'always on' nature of social media and instant messaging means children are continuously engaged with devices in their environment, even when they are not actively using them.

It is thought that screen-based media devices adversely affect sleep through a variety of ways, including delaying or interrupting sleep time; psychologically stimulating the brain; and affecting sleep cycles, physiology and alertness.

Sleep disturbance in childhood is known to have adverse effects on health, including poor diet, obesity, sedative behaviour, reduced immune function and stunted growth, as well as links with mental health issues.

Dr Ben Carter from King's College London, said: 'Our study provides further proof of the detrimental effect of media devices on both sleep duration and quality.

'Sleep is an often undervalued but important part of children's development, with a regular lack of sleep causing a variety of health problems. With the ever growing popularity of portable media devices and their use in schools as a replacement for textbooks, the problem of poor sleep amongst children is likely to get worse. Our findings suggest that an integrated approach involving parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals is necessary to reduce access to these devices and encourage good sleeping habits near bedtime.'
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Notes to editors

For further media information please contact Jack Stonebridge, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London jack.stonebridge@kcl.ac.uk/ 020 7848 5377 or 07718697176.

About King's College London - http://www.kcl.ac.uk

King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (2016/17 QS World University Rankings) and among the oldest in England. King's has more than 26,500 students (of whom nearly 10,400 are graduate students) from some 150 countries worldwide, and nearly 6,900 staff. The university is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.

King's has an outstanding reputation for world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) King's was ranked 6th nationally in the 'power' ranking, which takes into account both the quality and quantity of research activity, and 7th for quality according to Times Higher Education rankings. Eighty-four per cent of research at King's was deemed 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent' (3* and 4*). The university is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of more than £600 million.

King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine, nursing and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar.

King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: http://www.kingshealthpartners.org.

King's College London

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