redOrbit Staff Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Televisions, computers, gaming consoles and mobile phones in children’s bedrooms can cause anxiety and sleep loss, Canadian researchers reported in the current issue of the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.
Having these devices in the bedroom trains the brain to see the room as a place for entertainment, rather than a place for calmness and rest, said the researchers from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada.
“One of the biggest culprits for inadequate and disturbed sleep is technology,’ said Dalhousie psychologist Jennifer Vriend, the study’s lead author. “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,” she told The Telegraph.
“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,” she explained.
“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.”
The study also found that losing just one hour of sleep can negatively affect school performance by impeding memory and making it more difficult for children to solve math problems. By contrast, moving bedtime up by an hour makes children calmer and better able to concentrate, the researchers said.
Vriend said that adequate amounts of sleep lead to improved emotional stability, positive mood and improved attention, all of which are likely to improve academic success.
“Furthermore, when we sleep, what we learned during the day gets consolidated so children [who aren't sleeping well] are losing out on two levels,” she said.
The study involved 32 children between the ages of eight and twelve years old who averaged roughly nine hours’ rest per night. During the first week of the study, the children kept to their usual routines. Next, the group was split in half, with one group moving up their bedtime by one hour per night for four consecutive nights, while the other group moved their bedtime back an hour each night during that time.
On average, the study participants who went to bed an hour earlier slept just 73 minutes more per night than those who went to bed an hour later, but the consequences were dramatic, the researchers said.
After each four-day spell, the children were given basic tests to assess their math fluency, attention span and short-term and working memory. Their parents were also asked to keep a log of their children’s’ behavior.
“Even modest differences in sleep duration over just a few nights can have significant consequences for children’s daytime functioning,” the researchers concluded in their report. “One can assume that more chronic sleep loss would result in much greater impairments.”
The researchers said the study highlights the need to educate doctors, teachers, parents and children about the importance of healthy sleep habits, and the potential negative consequences of inadequate sleep.