5 ways to stop electronics from ruining your kids' sleep



Myles Ma

Myles Ma

Senior Managing Editor

Myles Ma is a health care expert & personal finance writer for Policygenius. He edits the Easy Money newsletter.

Published November 2, 2017|2 min read

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Almost every kid in America has a screen in their bedroom. It's ruining their sleep. A review of 15 years of research found that screen time was strongly associated with poor sleep health, mainly because it leads to kids sleeping later and less.

The review, published in Pediatrics Journal, recommended taking electronic media out of kids' rooms. It's one of five suggestions researchers had for parents.

Basically every kid is tired

Between 50% and 90% of school-age children and adolescents don't get enough sleep, the review said. Three-quarters of children have devices with screens in their bedrooms and 60% of adolescents say they use the devices in the hour before bedtime.

Researchers from Penn State University, Stony Brook Medicine, the University of Colorado Boulder and West Virginia University reviewed 67 studies of screen time and media use in school-aged children and teens from 1999 through 2014. Almost all the studies found an adverse association between screen time and sleep.

There are three likely causes. One, time spent on screens is time that could be spent sleeping. Two, the media on the screens may leave children overly stimulated. Three, the light from the screens affects circadian timing and alertness. Children are more sensitive to the blue light many electronic devices produce.

How losing sleep affects children

Losing sleep is bad for children. Those who have good sleeping habits have a lower risk of obesity, better cognitive functioning, behave less riskily and have better psychological well being overall. Tiredness during the day is linked to poor school performance and several psychological problems.

Adults may be able to deal with sleeping later because they decide when they wake up. In contrast, parents are usually in charge of when kids wake up.

Better sleep for children should be a priority for families, schools and doctors, the researchers said. They also called for more study on how light and media affects how children sleep.

As someone who didn't have a cell phone until I was 17 (I know, how did I even survive?), it's weird to me that kids even have smartphones. But based on this research, it seems like parents should at least try to keep electronics out of their children's bedrooms.

Image: Wavebreakmedia