Toddlers playing with touchscreens sleep less: study

April 13, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The more toddlers play with touchscreen devices the less they sleep, according to a study released Thursday that suggests the findings could be cause for concern.

For every additional hour using a touchscreen phone or tablet during the day, children aged six months to three years slept nearly 16 minutes less in each 24 hour period, researchers reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

But the study could not determine if the extra screen time was responsible for tiny tots sleeping less, or if the loss of shuteye had any .

One expert not involved in the research said the results "should be interpreted with extreme caution."

Sleep is critical for , especially during the first few years of life, when the brain and evolve in tandem.

Earlier research has shown that television watching and video game use are linked to sleep problems in children.

But the burgeoning use of touchscreens by an even younger cohort remained unexplored.

In 2014, more than 70 percent of families in Britain, where the study was conducted, owned a touchscreen device.

For the study, parents of 715 infants and were asked to report their child's daytime and night-time sleep, how quickly their children fell into slumber, and how often they woke during the night. The time children spent on touchscreen devices was also tracked.

Three-quarters of toddlers monitored used a tablet or phone on a daily basis. For children aged two or three, that percentage climbed to 92. On average, the devices were used 25 minutes per day.

Not only did more screen time correlate with less sleep, it was also associated with a longer transition into slumber. The quality of sleep, however, did not appear to change.

Several experts commenting on the findings challenged the study's methodology and conclusions.

"There could be many possible explanations" for the link between and less sleep, said Kevin McConway, an emeritus professor of statistics at The Open University in Britain.

"It could be the other way round—maybe the parents of toddlers who already sleep less are more likely to let their children use touchscreens," he said.

It was also pointed out that the average amount of lost sleep every day—about six minutes—may not be significant at an age when children sleep on average 12 hours out of very 24.

Others underlined the importance of following up.

"This is a timely piece of research given the already controversial topic of screen use in childhood and adolescence," said Anna Joyce, an expert in cognitive development psychology at Coventry University in England.

Other research has shown that scrolling touchscreens helps develop find motor skills in very young .

Explore further: Touchscreens may boost motor skills in toddlers

More information: Celeste H. M. Cheung et al. Daily touchscreen use in infants and toddlers is associated with reduced sleep and delayed sleep onset, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/srep46104

Related Stories

Touchscreens may boost motor skills in toddlers

September 13, 2016
Does your toddler use a touchscreen tablet? A recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology has shown that early touchscreen use, and in particular actively scrolling the screen, correlates with increased fine motor control ...

Bedtime use of media devices more than doubles the risk of poor sleep in children

October 31, 2016
Children using devices such as smartphones and tablets at bedtime have over double the risk of a disrupted night's sleep compared to children without access to such devices, according to a new study led by researchers from ...

Experts launch online child-sleep improvement tool for parents

November 2, 2016
Parents of children who don't sleep well have a new resource to help them develop better sleep habits and routines for their child.

'Small screens' prevent kids from sleeping, study says

January 5, 2015
Children who have access to tablets or smartphones in their bedrooms get less sleep than children who do not have the devices with them at night, a US study said Monday.

Napping beyond age of two linked to poorer sleep quality in young children

February 17, 2015
Napping beyond the age of 2 is linked to poorer sleep quality in young children, although the impact on behaviour and development is less clear-cut, finds an analysis of the available evidence published online in Archives ...

Increased smartphone screen-time associated with lower sleep quality

November 9, 2016
Exposure to smartphone screens is associated with lower sleep quality, according to a study published November 9, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Matthew Christensen from the University of California, San Francisco, ...

Recommended for you

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.