Teens and Technology

By sleepcounciladmin on September 16, 2015

Teens and Technology  As it’s Teen Sleep week in our Sleeptember campaign we thought we’d take a look at the impact of technology on sleep – in particular the effect it’s having on teens.

It comes on the back of another study – this time from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) – which found that one in five children (aged between 12 and 15) ‘almost always’ uses social networks in the night and this regular nocturnal disruption is making some children more tired during lessons than very late bedtimes.

The findings are to be revealed to the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference at the Queen’s University in Belfast, today.  

Other research also confirms that screen time does affect teen sleep with those who have more than four hours per day of screen time, being three-and-a-half times likelier to sleep fewer than five hours a night. They were also likelier to need more than 60 minutes to fall asleep (the average adult nods off in under 30 minutes). 

It is the blue light that is emitted from smartphones and tablets that interferes with teens (and adults) internal body clocks. It supresses levels of melatonin which you need in order to nod off.  If you use them in the hour before bed, there is proven research that it affects sleep latency (ie the amount of time it takes you to time to fall asleep) and this new study shows that using them in the middle of the night is also impacting on sleep – when you sense light (even the smallest amount of light such as the blue glow from your phone or tablet) your melatonin goes away and so does your sense of sleepiness, keeping you alert.

What’s interesting is the WISERD paper disagrees with the current proposal that pupils should start school later to combat sleep deprivation. WISERD believe that pupils would be less likely to have regular waking times and that a regular morning routine may actually prove to be a very important feature in helping adolescents concentrate and enjoy their learning.

It’s a tough one regarding the decision to start schools later. While there is a lot research out there to support that later school times are more in sync with a teen’s circadian rhythm there is also an argument that once they start work they’ll have a 9am or earlier start and that maybe we should be tackling issues such as technology, diet, exercise and bed times.

While there has been research to support that teenagers’ circadian rhythms are out of sync with school start times, we do know that the influence of technology over the latter few years has had a significant impact on bed times and sleep quality.

Technology has come a long way and we still don’t know the long term effects of what it is doing to sleep – teens or adults.  But all the research out there is pointing to the fact that it is impacting on health and wellbeing and it needs action now!

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