New Research Explains Why Screen Time Sabotages Children’s Sleep

As the digital age evolves, every parent is concerned about the excessive use of digital media in kids. Now, every kid is exposed to a mobile phone, tablet, or a TV from a very early age. And parents worry about the adverse impact it can leave on their kids. Among many other disadvantages, sleep-disrupting effects of excess screen time is very well known. A new research has added more to it by explaining why kids are highly susceptible to sleep disruption from screen-based media use and exposure.

Demerits Of Screen Time

According to a recent report from Commonsense Media, mobile-media device use has tripled among young children since 2011. Kids under 8 use them 48 minutes per day and many parents allow them to use digital media as part of the bedtime routine. They believe it would calm them down before sleep. And many parents remain ignorant about the impact of this little blue light on their kids’ sleep and circadian rhythms.


Most studies have agreed that kids who consume more screen-based media are more likely to experience sleep disruption. There is an adverse association between screen-based media consumption and sleep health. More than a dozen studies that looked into youths ages 5 to 17 from around the world found that more screen time is associated with delayed bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep, and poorer sleep quality.

And it will, in turn, have other negative outcomes. Lack of sleep and poor sleep quality may result in daytime tiredness. This will again lead to poor school performance and other psychological problems.


It is not just the usage that affects kids. Even those who leave a phone or a computer on overnight in their bedroom are likely to suffer from disturbed sleep. It is found that these electronic devices are present in the bedrooms of 75% of children and 60% of adolescents view or interact with screens before bedtime.

But Why?

The new research has done a sweeping review of literature to find out why digital media adversely affects sleep. The kids’ eyes are not fully developed. This makes them more sensitive than adults to the impact of light on the internal body clock. It, in fact, suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. Moreover, various studies have proved that blue light, which is common in all hand-held electronics, has a greater potential in suppressing melatonin.

To get a clear picture, you need to know the role of light. According to Monique LeBourgeois, an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology at CU Boulder, light is our brain clock’s primary timekeeper.1 As light reaches our retina in the evening hours, it results in the production of signals to the circadian system to bring down the level of melatonin. As we all know, melatonin plays an important role in promoting sleep. Kids and teens with larger pupils and transparent lenses are more sensitive to light. A study has found that when adults and school-age children were exposed to the same amount and intensity of light, the magnitude of melatonin suppression by the light stimulus in children was almost twice that of adults.

Similar to the biological effects, it has other psychological effects, which affect their sleep. The use of digital media often results in “psychological stimulation.” When your kid texts a friend or plays games using digital media it raises cognitive arousal. With an active mind, it is not easy to go to bed.

What Can You Do

Data from the US population studies show that 30% of preschool-aged children and between 50% and 90% of school-aged children and adolescents do not get as much sleep as they may need. Excess screen time might be a contributor to this scenario. Here are a few tips to parents to reduce their kids’ screen time:

  • Restrict their media use in the hour before bedtime.
  • To divert their attention from electronic devices, spend time with them or engage them in fun activities.
  • Set an example by not using your phone/tablets before bedtime.
  • Remove all electronic devices from your kids’ bedroom.
  • Educate him/her about the side effects of more screen time.
  • Encourage your kid to develop habits like reading.