Insomnia symptoms, shorter sleep time in children linked to screen time

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BALTIMORE — Parents of children who struggle with sleeping problems may want to consider cutting back on the iPad and Netflix time. A recent study found a positive correlation between screen time and insomnia symptoms, as well as overall shorter duration of sleep in adolescents.

Researchers say the greater the total time spent social messaging, web surfing, and TV/movie watching in a day, the more insomnia symptoms — which, in effect, also led to more depressive symptoms in children.

The study used data from 2,865 adolescents, about 15-16 years old on average, who participated in Princeton and Columbia universities’ Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Researchers keyed on in data that monitored sleep struggles and symptoms of depression in participants.

Teens in the study reported their typical daily time spent on four screen-based activities in hours. The four main screen-based activities were social messaging, web surfing, television and movies, and gaming.

“These results suggest that parents, educators and health care professionals could consider educating adolescents and regulating their screen time, as possible interventions for improving sleep health and reducing depression,” says principal investigator Dr. Lauren Hale, Professor of Family, Population, and Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University Medicine, in a statement.  “We’re very interested to see whether the adverse influences of social media and screen use on sleep and mental health persist during the transition to adulthood.”

The research was presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS) in Baltimore, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

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