A new survey reported on the NHS Choices website has indicated that teens who use computers, mobiles and televisions at night could be affecting their sleep and impacting their health, mood and school performance.
Most teens surveyed (98.5%) said they have a phone, TV or music system in their bedrooms, with two-thirds of participants admitting to having all three. Almost a quarter of the teenagers surveyed said that they fell asleep while watching TV, listening to music or using other types of technology.
Dr Chris Idzikowski, of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, calls this “junk sleep.”
“That’s sleep that is neither the length nor quality that it should be in order to feed the brain with the rest it needs to perform properly at school.”
Somewhat alarmingly, another survey – conducted by The Sleep Council and involving 1,000 children – revealed that a third of those aged between 12 and 16 years sleep for only four to seven hours per night.
Evidence suggests the importance of sleep for teenagers as it leads to better mental development, and a lack of sleep contributes to children becoming overweight or obese. As such, experts recommend 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night for this age group, and advise restricting the use of TVs, phones and computers in the evening.
Professor Jim Horne, of Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre, explains why it is important for children going through puberty and adolescence to “sleep longer and deeper”.
“It’s a time during which their brains are undergoing major change – the brain is undergoing major restructuring and rewiring and sleep is important for it to recover.”
His advice: “I would place firm night-time limits on the use of a television, mobile phone or a computer in their bedroom.”
Technology such as computers and TVs are known triggers of migraines in young people, as is a lack of sleep, so the advice is particularly relevant for teens who suffer with migraines regularly.