Moreover, those who used a phone or watched television in a room with a light on were 31% more likely to get less sleep than those who didn't use a screen, with this number increasing to 147% if children used the screens in the dark. (Shutterstock/OHishiapply)
New European research has found that children who use a screen in the dark before bedtime are less likely to get enough sleep than those who use screens in a well-lit room.
Carried out by researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Lincoln, and Birkbeck University of London, Britain, along with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Switzerland, the new study is the first to is investigate the effect of using screens in different lighting conditions on sleep in pre-teens, looking at 6,616 adolescents in Britain aged between 11 and 12.
The children were asked to report on whether they used their screen devices within one hour before going to sleep in both lit and darkened rooms as well as their weekday and weekend bedtimes, how difficult they found it to go to sleep and their wake-up times. Sleep quality was also assessed using a survey.
Mobile phones, tablets, eBook readers, laptops, portable media players, portable video game consoles, desktop computers, televisions and video game consoles were all included in the study.
The findings, published in the journal Environment International, showed that 71.5% of the children reported using at least one screen device within one hour of their bedtime, and 32.2% reported using mobile phones at night in darkness.
The researchers found that using screens at night is consistently associated with poor sleep quality, insufficient sleep, and poor perceived quality of life.
Moreover, those who used a phone or watched television in a room with a light on were 31% more likely to get less sleep than those who didn't use a screen, with this number increasing to 147% if children used the screens in the dark. Lead author, Dr Michael Mireku, commented on the findings saying, "While previous research has shown a link between screen use and the quality and length of young people's sleep, ours is the first study to show how room lighting can further influence this."
"Our findings are significant not only for parents but for teachers, health professionals and adolescents themselves. We would recommend that these groups are made aware of the potential issues surrounding screen use during bedtime including insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality."
The researchers also note that lack of sleep has been previously linked with impaired immune responses, depression, anxiety, and obesity in children and adolescents, as well as poorer academic performance.