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Adolescents and insomnia: Does the mobile screen affect?

Adolescents and insomnia

Adolescents and insomnia: Does the mobile screen affect?

Adolescents and insomnia. The National Sleep Foundation's 2014 Sleep in the Modern Family1 poll found that three out of four teens and 96% of teens between the ages of 15 and 17, fthey bring some kind of technology into the bedroom. In total, the average teenager receives up to nine hours of screen time per day.

The increasing use of electronic devices for school, entertainment and social media has many benefits. However, experts are increasingly concerned about the effects of blue light from these electronic devices on the sleep-wake cycle. It is estimated that two out of three teenagers3 regularly get less than the recommended amount of sleep, and screen time can be responsible for sleep deprivation and other problems.

How do screens affect the sleep-wake cycle?

The human sleep-wake cycle follows a circadian rhythm that takes its cues mostly from sunlight. When it's bright outside, we become more cautious. When it gets dark, the body produces a hormone called melatonin that causes sleepiness.

Adolescents and insomnia

Smartphones, tablets, computers, TV screens and some e-readers emit short-wavelength blue light that is very similar to sunlight. This light not only makes us more alert, but also tricks the body into thinking it's still day.

Adolescents and insomnia

In response, the body produces less melatonin, disrupting the body's natural sleep-wake cycle. The more time you spend on your screen, the greater the consequences4 for your sleep.

Is screen time causing insomnia in teenagers?

Screen time is linked to a number of insomnia symptoms in teenagers. By delaying the release of melatonin, screen time shortens bedtime and leads to less restful sleep. As the majority of teenagers have strict school start times, a late bedtime usually results in less sleep overall and increased sleepiness the next day. Over time, consistently late bedtimes and weekend sleeping disrupt the circadian rhythm.

Scientists believe that children and teenagers may be particularly sensitive to the effects of blue light because their eyes let more light in5. For this reason, limiting evening screen time in children and adolescents is particularly important to prevent sleep problems.

In addition to suppressing melatonin levels, screen time for teens can lead directly to sleep. Engaging in exciting or violent content before bed, or using social media6, can enhance alertness and prevent sleepiness.

Alertness and melatonin levels can also be affected by passive technology, such as a TV running in the background or a smartphone emitting sounds, vibrations and light. There is some debate about whether screen time actually causes insomnia in teens, or whether teens who have trouble sleeping are simply more likely to use screens at night.

To make matters more complicated, excessive cell phone use has been linked to symptoms of depression and anxiety7, which are themselves a risk factor for insomnia. It may be that sleep, screen time, and negative emotions interact to exacerbate unhealthy behaviors.

Adolescents and insomnia

That said, the prevailing view is that screen time has a greater effect on insomnia than the other way around. Studies show that 57% of teens8 who use technology in the bedroom suffer from sleep problems, and teens consistently report worse sleep when they have a TV or small screen9, such as a smartphone, in the bedroom.

Which devices have the biggest impact on sleep quality?

Researchers aren't sure if some devices10 are worse than others when it comes to sleep problems. Computers, tablets, smartphones, televisions and game consoles have been shown to affect sleep, especially when used at bedtime.

Some experts believe that sleep suffers more with devices that require interactive use11, such as a smartphone or video game console. Others suggest that smartphones may affect melatonin levels more than TV screens, as they tend to be held closer to the face. Along the same lines, sleep appears to suffer more when teenagers use screens in a dark room12, possibly because their pupils are more dilated and let more blue light through.

The more time an adolescent spends on a screen each day, the more likely they are to have disturbed sleep13. Also, using the phone to communicate with others near bedtime could lead to less sleep as teens stay up later to wait for a response. Finally, keeping a phone on without mute during the night also appears to disrupt sleep when incoming text alerts wake teenagers.

What are the consequences of sleep deprivation for teenagers?

Sleep deprivation during adolescence can cause problems with mood, emotions and academic performance. Teens who don't sleep well are more likely to have problems with their peers, and chronic sleep loss can lead to a weakened immune system, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Sleep loss and screens are both risk factors for obesity14, especially when screen time replaces exercise. Sleep loss also leads to increased fatigue during the day, which can be very dangerous for young drivers.

Tips for teenagers' screen time and sleep

Adolescents and insomnia

Because teens need to use screens for academic and social obligations, organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics15 prefer not to put an exact number on recommended screen time for teens. Instead, they urge parents to develop an individualized family media plan.

A family social media plan should include clear limits on screen time and allow time for other activities such as sleep, family time, schoolwork, and exercise.

Teens do best when they are given the opportunity to participate in creating their own guidelines, so consider sitting down and making a "screen time plan" together. As part of your ongoing mission to improve your teen's screen habits and sleep environment, you should:

Set limits for educational and leisure screen time.

Choose an appropriate bedtime, keeping in mind that teenagers need eight to ten hours of sleep. Agree to a "screen curfew" and encourage your teen to reduce screen use earlier in the day when possible.

Decide where to charge smartphones, ideally outside the teenager's bedroom. Discuss the effects of sleep deprivation and remind your teen that less screen time gives them more time for socializing, family time, homework, sports, and extracurricular activities.

Create a relaxing routine before bed to replace screen use, including activities such as reading or chatting.

Follow the sleep hygiene tips and keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
Lower the screens, select night modes and switch to warm home lighting before bed.
Listen to your teen's concerns, such as the fear of missing out on social media updates, and find ways to work solutions into your media plan.
Be informed about your teen's technology use and talk about how to use the Internet safely and responsibly. Teenagers and insomnia:
Ideally, the bedroom should be a screen-free zone. Reserving the bedroom for sleep helps the brain relax. However, it's not always possible to keep technology out of the bedroom. If your teen must use technology in the bedroom, ask them to turn off their devices about an hour before bed. Glasses or apps designed to filter out blue light16 also appear to minimize sleep disturbances in adolescents. Teenagers and insomnia:

To help teenagers adopt healthy screen habits, parents should try to be positive role models by limiting their own screen use.

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