SEP 28, 2018 9:51 AM PDT

Are Smartphones and Electronics Responsible for Teen Sleep Issues?

Chances are if you see a teenager, their face is practically glued to a screen. The latest industry numbers show that 95% of teens own or have access to a smartphone. And kids do not like to put them down, even in the wee small hours of the morning.

Teens routinely like to stay up late, and any parent can tell you that their kids are texting and posting on social media even in the middle of the night. Parents believe that the devices are interfering with sleep cycles and they could be right.

New figures from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health are clear. Conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, it reveals how concerned parents are about the use of electronics by their kids and the impact it has on sleep. The study gathered responses from over 1,000 parents of children aged 13-18 years old. The report showed that 56% of parents who have teenagers with sleep problems, blame the use of electronics for their child's sleep difficulties.

A good chunk of parents, 43% according to the poll, report teens struggle to fall asleep or, if they do fall asleep, they wake up later in the middle of the night and cannot fall back to sleep. About 25% of parents with children who struggle to sleep, reported that it happens about 1 to 2 nights a week. Eighteen percent of parents said the incidence was 3 or more nights a week. That is a lot of sleep-deprived adolescents stumbling around. While parents did cite concerns about their children being stressed over homework, activities or grades, parents put the problem with social media and electronics at the number one spot of why their children are having sleep problems. Not being able to stay off electronics -- including social media and cell phones -- was the no.1 reason parents cited for sleep disturbance.

Sarah Clark, M.P.H. who served as the co-director of the work, explained, "This poll suggests that sleep problems are common among teens and parents believe the late-night use of electronics is a main contributor. Teens' hectic schedules and homework load, as well as anxiety about school performance and peer relationships, also are seen by parents as contributing to sleep problems."

While electronics got the blame from many parents, those surveyed did say they had tried to encourage better sleep habits with their kids. Measures included limiting caffeine, trying natural remedies, keeping to a sleep and wake schedule, turning off electronics, and storing them away from the bedrooms. When these measures didn't solve the issue, 22% of parents said they consulted a doctor. Sleep medications were the go-to remedy from medical professionals, but prescriptions for sleeping pills come with their own set of issues including dependence, withdrawal and rebound insomnia.

The clip below talks more about blue light, electronics and teen sleep issues, check it out.

Sources: University of Michigan MottPoll.org

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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