Iowa Sleep Blog

How Electronic Devices Affect Teens’ Sleep

Friday, September 12, 2014

Technology is everywhere, and increasingly, it’s found in children’s and teens’ bedrooms. Checking social media from a smartphone, watching a TV show on a tablet, or playing a video game may seem harmless, but these devices have a significant impact on your amount and quality of sleep. They often are used past a person’s planned bedtime, and their light and sounds have the potential to disrupt sleep in the middle of the night.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, which conducted its annual Sleep in America poll earlier this year, 75 percent of children ages 6-17 have at least one electronic device in their bedroom. This is most commonly a television, but other devices may include computers, tablets, smartphones, video games and MP3s.

Additionally, only 27 percent of parents whose teens leave devices on at night rated their teens’ sleep as excellent compared to 53 percent of parents whose teens who turn their devices off. Poll data also showed that the number of children getting fair to poor sleep decreased by more than half when devices were turned off or not in the room overnight.

Today, teens are frequently getting almost two hours less than the recommended nine hours of sleep per night, affecting their ability to function at school and other activities during the day. However, turning off electronics at bedtime is an easy way to help adjust those numbers.

Many teens have become increasingly inseparable from their smartphones, keeping them on and with by their side throughout the night. These devices make noises often causing teens to wake up and check for text messages or application alerts. Another sleep disruptor is screen light. Turning on a phone or tablet in the middle of the night can be just as distracting to sleep as noise. Light emitted from the screen signals to the brain that it is time to wake up, causing poor sleep outcomes.

Here are a few tips to help your teen develop good sleep habits:

  • Establish a regular bedtime so your teen can relax and unwind before bed, helping the body know when it’s time to sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine, heavy meals and exercise within four hours of bedtime.
  • Encourage your teen to put phones and other screens, such as laptops and video games, away at least one hour before bedtime.

Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is important to teens’ well-being. Although they typically like to stay up late and sleep in on the weekends, they will have a harder time waking up and feeling refreshed during the week. Make sure your teens get up within two hours of their usual weekday wake time to ensure a healthy sleep routine.