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Device Use During Bedtime Doubles Risks Of Poor Sleep In Children

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Here's further proof that using media devices in bed brings more harm than good: According to King's College London researchers, children who use smartphones or tablets during bedtime are more than twice likely to have disrupted sleep compared to kids who don't have access to mobile devices before they sleep.

Based on earlier research, 72 percent of children and 89 percent of adolescents have a minimum of one device in their bedrooms, most of which are used close to bedtime. However, there remains a lot to be learned about how device use impacts sleep because the development and prevalence of smartphones and tablets has outpaced research in the field.

To help address this, King's College London researchers reviewed 20 studies from across four continents, gathering data involving over 125,000 children between the ages of 6 and 19 and with an average age of 15.

Based on their findings, the researchers saw that device use during bedtime was associated with increased changes of poor sleep quality and inadequate sleep quantity, which leads to excessive daytime sleepiness.

For the meta-analysis published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, "bedtime use" was defined as engaging with a mobile device 90 minutes before going to sleep. However, the researchers also found that the mere presence of a device in a bedroom was associated with higher chances of poor sleep.

One of the possible reasons why this is so may be attributed to the "always on" nature of mobile devices connected to social media networks and instant messaging apps. This means children are in continuous engagement with devices even without actively using them.

"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," said Ben Carter, one of the study's authors.

How Poor Sleep Affects Children

It is believed that media devices affect sleep adversely through a number of ways, like psychologically stimulating the brain, delaying sleep time, and affecting alertness, physiology and sleep cycles. In terms of health effects, sleep disturbance in children has been known to result in poor diet, sedative behavior, obesity, stunted growth, reduce function in the immune system and mental health issues.

Ideal Sleep Duration In Children

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, three- to five-year-olds should sleep up 13 hours a day, including naps, while children six to 12 years old should be logging between nine and 12 hours of sleep everyday. Teens, on the other hand, should be sleeping at least eight to 10 hours daily. To help kids sleep better, a nightly bedtime routine is recommended.

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