Nav: Home

Children's sleep not significantly affected by screen time, new study finds

November 05, 2018

Screen-time has little impact on the quality of children's sleep, according to new Oxford University research.

Screens are now a fixture of modern childhood. And as young people spend an increasing amount of time on electronic devices, the effects of these digital activities has become a prevalent concern among parents, caregivers, and policy-makers. Research indicating that between 50% to 90% of school-age children might not be getting enough sleep has prompted calls that technology use may be to blame. However, the new research findings from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, has shown that screen time has very little practical effect on children's sleep.

The study was conducted using data from the United States' 2016 National Survey of Children's Health. Parents from across the country completed self-report surveys on themselves, their children and household.

"The findings suggest that the relationship between sleep and screen use in children is extremely modest," says Professor Andrew Przybylski, author of the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. "Every hour of screen time was related to 3 to 8 fewer minutes of sleep a night."

In practical terms, while the correlation between screen time and sleep in children exists, it might be too small to make a significant difference to a child's sleep. For example, when you compare the average nightly sleep of a tech-abstaining teenager (at 8 hours, 51 minutes) with a teenager who devotes 8 hours a day to screens (at 8 hours, 21 minutes), the difference is overall inconsequential. Other known factors, such as early starts to the school day, have a larger effect on childhood sleep.

"This suggests we need to look at other variables when it comes to children and their sleep," says Przybylski. Analysis in the study indicated that variables within the family and household were significantly associated with both screen use and sleep outcomes. "Focusing on bedtime routines and regular patterns of sleep, such as consistent wake-up times, are much more effective strategies for helping young people sleep than thinking screens themselves play a significant role."

The aim of this study was to provide parents and practitioners with a realistic foundation for looking at screen versus the impact of other interventions on sleep. "While a relationship between screens and sleep is there, we need to look at research from the lens of what is practically significant," says Przybylski. "Because the effects of screens are so modest, it is possible that many studies with smaller sample sizes could be false positives - results that support an effect that in reality does not exist."

"The next step from here is research on the precise mechanisms that link digital screens to sleep. Though technologies and tools relating to so-called 'blue light' have been implicated in sleep problems, it is not clear whether play a significant causal role," says Przybylski. "Screens are here to stay, so transparent, reproducible, and robust research is needed to figure out how tech effects us and how we best intervene to limit its negative effects."
-end-
Notes to editors:

The full paper citation is:

Digital Screen Time and Pediatric Sleep: Evidence from a Preregistered Cohort Study by Andrew K. Przybylski, Phd, published in The Journal of Pediatrics

The link to the article is: https://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(18)31384-2/fulltext

For further information please contact Lanisha Butterfield, Media Relations Manager on 01865 280531, lanisha.butterfield@admin.ox.ac.uk

University of Oxford

Related Sleep Articles:

'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.
Opioids are not sleep aids, and can actually worsen sleep research finds
Evidence that taking opioids will help people with chronic pain to sleep better is limited and of poor quality, according to an interdisciplinary team of psychologists and medics from the University of Warwick in partnership with Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland.
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.
Kicking, yelling during sleep? Study finds risk factors for violent sleep disorder
Taking antidepressants for depression, having post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety diagnosed by a doctor are risk factors for a disruptive and sometimes violent sleep disorder called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, according to a study published in the Dec.
Sleep health and yoga intervention delivered in low-income communities improves sleep
Pilot study results indicate that a sleep and yoga intervention has promising effects on improving sleep disturbance, sleep-related impairment, and sleep health behaviors.
Can weekend sleep make up for the detriments of sleep deprivation during the week?
In a recent Journal of Sleep Research study, short, but not long, weekend sleep was associated with an increased risk of early death in individuals under 65 years of age.
More Sleep News and Sleep Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.