S.T.E.A.M. Day

How screens affect sleep in children

Research indicates that children are more sensitive to blue light, but they often spend as much, if not more, time on screens than adults. Sleep plays a pivotal role in cognitive development and academics, and screen time may be affecting your child’s sleep quality more than you realize. 


Screen time as a predictor of sleep time 

Research has proven that screen time is inversely related to sleep time- for adults and children alike. Studies have shown that:

  • For every hour spent on a screen, sleep time was reduced by 16 minutes 
  • Mobile devices mobiles were more destructive for sleep quality compared to television
  • TV was linked to less daytime sleep while mobile screen time was linked to less overall sleep 

Researchers found that on average, every hour of tablet use reduced sleep duration by 26 minutes. Furthermore, watching  more than 1 hour of TV in the evening decreased average sleep duration to under 11 hours (which is not normal for children)


Screen time as a predictor of sleep quality 

Other studies revealed that screen time not only affects sleep quantity, but also quality. Children who frequently used screens were more likely to suffer from sleep anxiety, bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, and ‘turning off’ their minds. Violent content can compound these issues by increasing nightmares and lowering sleep quality. 

  • More TV is associated with more disruptive sleep and more night wakings 
  • Less consolidated sleep is linked to lower sleep efficiency 
  • Children who were frequent screen users were also 4 times more likely to sleepwalk 


Maintaining good sleep hygiene 

Nighttime exposure to screens is particularly problematic for children because they’re still learning how to regulate emotions, so it is more difficult for them to settle down. Avoid screens one hour before bedtime and in the bedroom. Alternatively, don’t allow screen time after 7pm (around the time the sun sets); this helps to prevent exposure to artificial blue light that blocks melatonin production.