Computers and phones in children’s bedrooms ‘can cause anxiety and sleep loss’
Published in The Telegraph
Parents have been urged to take televisions, computers and mobile phones out of children’s bedrooms as they cause anxiety and prevent sleep which ruins school performance, a study has suggested.
Researchers have found that having televisions and games consoles in the bedroom teaches the brain to see the room as an entertainment zone rather than a place for quiet and rest.
While playing violent video games in the bedroom sets up to the brain to see it as a place of danger and where it should be on edge.
It comes a year after a study by consumer watchdog Ofcom found teenagers sent an average of 193 texts every week, more than double the number they sent in 2011.
It also found than 70 per cent of teenagers have television sets in their rooms.
Now parents have been warned technology should be taken out of children’s rooms to ensure they get the rest they need.
Losing as little as an hour’s sleep can ruin a child’s performance at school, according to the study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.
Pupils who have late nights find maths problems harder to solve and have poorer memory skills.
However, bringing bedtime forward – even by 60 minutes – makes youngsters calmer and better able to concentrate,
The paper’s lead author, psychologist Dr Jennifer Vriend, of Dalhousie University in Canada, said: “One of the biggest culprits for inadequate and disturbed sleep is technology.
“Many teenagers sleep with their phones and they are awakened regularly by it ringing or vibrating throughout the night when they get a text, email or Facebook message.
“Having televisions and games consoles in the bedroom is also a problem. It sets up the brain to see the room as an entertainment zone rather than a quiet, sleepy environment.
“So when a teenager is playing a violent video game regularly in his bedroom, his brain starts to associate it as a place where he should be on edge and ready for danger; the brain becomes wired to not want to sleep in that environment.”
Dr Vriend added: “Adequate sleep leads to better emotional stability, more positive mood and improved attention, which are all likely to improve academic success.
“Furthermore, when we sleep, what we learned during the day gets consolidated so children are losing out on two levels.”
The latest study focused on 32 children aged between eight and twelve who averaged nearly nine hours’ rest per night.
For the first week, the children maintained their usual routines, but then the group was split in two, half cutting down on their sleep for four consecutive days while the rest had more than normal.
On average, those who went to bed an hour earlier than usual got an 73 extra minutes’ sleep than those who went an hour later, but the consequences were significant.
After each four-day spell, the children were given basic tests to assess maths fluency, attention span and both short-term and working memory while parents kept a log of their youngsters’ behaviour.
The study states: “Even modest differences in sleep duration, accumulated over a few days, can affect critical cognitive and emotional functions in children.
“One can assume that more chronic sleep loss would result in much greater impairments.
“This study highlights the need to educate healthcare professionals, educators, parents and children about the importance of healthy sleep habits and the potential negative consequences of inadequate sleep.”