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Today’s generation of children and adolescents are growing up in a media-saturated environment.
Media use can include broadcast media such as television and movies, as well as interactive media such as social media and online games. Further, media use via portable devices such as smartphones and tablets has made media use available 24 hours a day and at most any location.
One area of health concern with children’s media use is its effect on sleep. Concerns about media use and sleep include that using media at or near bedtime can lead to fewer hours of sleep and poorer quality of sleep. Concerns have also been raised about media use leading to daytime sleepiness, which could affect children’s school performance and other physical health issues. Sleeping the recommended hours on a regular basis is necessary and associated with better health outcomes including improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. Children 6 to 12 years of age should get 9 to 12 hours of sleep and teens 13 to 18 years of age should get 8 to 10 hours each night. More information about number of hours of recommended sleep for children and adolescents is available from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (http://www.aasmnet.org/Resources/pdf/Pediatricsleepdurationconsensus.pdf).
This issue of JAMA Pediatrics includes a study of the relationship between media use and sleep outcomes. This meta-analysis study allows an independent group of investigators to review and summarize findings from previous studies, leading to an evidence-based summary of the state of the science on a given topic.
This meta-analysis included 20 previous studies from around the globe; in total, the studies included 125 198 children. The analysis found the following evidence regarding the relationship between media use and sleep:
Decreased Number of Hours of Sleep
First, the researchers found a strong and consistent relationship between using media near bedtime and decreased number of hours of sleep. The meta-analysis found that the risk of not getting enough sleep was about 2 times higher for children and adolescents who used media before bedtime. Further, having access to a media device in the sleeping environment, even if the device was not being actively used near bedtime, was associated with inadequate amount of sleep.
Poor Sleep Quality
Children who used a media device near bedtime were also more likely to have poor sleep quality. The researchers found that even just having access to a media device at bedtime was also associated with poor sleep quality.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
Both having access to a media device at bedtime, as well as using media near bedtime, were associated with excess daytime sleepiness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children do not sleep with devices in their bedrooms, including televisions, computers, smartphones, and tablets. Further, the policy recommends that children and adolescents avoid using any electronic media for at least 1 hour before bedtime. Families can develop a Family Media Use plan working with each child to prioritize health behaviors such as sleep and physical activity, as well as important daily activities such as homework, activities, and “unplugged” time such as family dinners and 1 hour before bedtime. With the time left, families can determine the appropriate amount of time and content for their child’s media use and establish a media curfew 1 hour before bedtime.
Source: Carter B, Rees P, Hale L, Bhattacharjee D, Paradkar MS. Association between portable screen-based media device access or use and sleep outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatr. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.2341
Moreno MA. Media Use and Sleep. JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(12):1236. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.2575
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