Technology

Screen time does not massively impact children's sleep, study claims

Research from the University of Oxford says screens could only be affecting sleep time by minutes each night.

Screen time may not have as big an impact on children’s sleep as once thought, according to new research.

Findings from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford found that every hour school age children spent on digital devices only equated to between three and eight fewer minutes of sleep each night.

It has long been thought that children who spend more time engaged with digital devices suffer worse sleeping patterns.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, author of the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, said: “The findings suggest that the relationship between sleep and screen use in children is extremely modest.

“Every hour of screen time was related to three to eight fewer minutes of sleep a night.”

The research, titled Digital Screen Time and Paediatric Sleep, found that teenagers who abstain from technology got an average of eight hours and 51 minutes of sleep a night.

However, teenagers spending eight hours each day on screens still managed an average of eight hours and 21 minutes of sleep each night.

Instead, Prof Przybylski suggested that other factors relating to family and daily routine possibly should be the focus when trying to get children to sleep better.

He said: “Focusing on bedtime routines and regular patterns of sleep, such as consistent wake-up times, are much more effective strategies for helping young people sleep than thinking screens themselves play a significant role.”

Blue light omitted from screens has been linked to sleep issues in the past, but Prof Przybylski is unsure as to the significance of their role.

He said: “The next step from here is research on the precise mechanisms that link digital screens to sleep.

“Though technologies and tools relating to so-called ‘blue light’ have been implicated in sleep problems, it is not clear whether play a significant causal role.

“Screens are here to stay, so transparent, reproducible, and robust research is needed to figure out how tech effects us and how we best intervene to limit its negative effects.”

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