What Keeps Kids Up at Night? It Could Be Their Cellphone

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Children’s use of smartphones and tablets near bedtime is linked to poor sleep and daytime drowsiness, a new analysis found.

The report, in JAMA Internal Medicine, pooled data from 20 studies involving 125,198 children ages 6 to 18. Among those who had access to a screen device at bedtime at least three times a week, there was an 88 percent increased risk for not getting enough sleep (defined as at least 10 hours a night for children and nine hours for adolescents); a 53 percent increased risk of poor sleep quality; and more than double the risk for daytime tiredness.

Just having a device in the bedroom, even unused, also increased the risk for sleep problems.

The authors acknowledge the studies had limits. All were observational and depended on self-reports, which can be unreliable. It is also possible that poor sleep habits could themselves lead to increasing use of devices.

Still, the lead author, Ben Carter, a senior lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London, said all the studies seem to point in the same direction. “The most important point is that we need a communitywide strategy to empower parents so that it becomes an acceptable routine to remove devices prior to bedtime.”