Young people's sleep affected by spending too much time on device

Daytime phone use ‘won’t damage children’s sleep’: Young people’s slumber can be affected by spending too much time on device before bed… but using it in daylight hours has no ill effect, study suggests

  • Factors linking phone use to sleep deprivation include blue light exposure
  • The habits of nine to 12-year-olds in Spain and the Netherlands were examined
  • No link between phone use during the day and sleep deprivation was found
  • Children can lose sleep if they spend too much time on their phone before bed – but not if they look at it during the day – according to a study.

    Scientists said factors linking phones to sleep deprivation include mental stress, blue light exposure and electromagnetic fields emitted by devices.

    But in a surprising twist, the researchers added that excessive phone use during the day does not make it harder for children to get some shut-eye at night.

    Children can lose sleep if they spend too much time on their phone before bed ¿ but not if they look at it during the day ¿ according to a study (stock image)

    Children can lose sleep if they spend too much time on their phone before bed – but not if they look at it during the day – according to a study (stock image)

    The online habits of 1,500 nine to 12-year-olds in Spain and the Netherlands were examined, with data on their phone use collected through a questionnaire.

    They then assessed how much a group of 300 of the children used their phones after 7pm, and measured their sleep patterns for a week.

    They found that the children spent 50 minutes a day looking at their phone screens and two-and-a-half minutes a day making calls. 

    The youngsters slept for an average of seven-and-a-half hours a night. One in five made phone calls in the evening, and they slept for 12 minutes less than their peers.

    No link between phone use during the day and sleep deprivation was found.

    The study, published in the journal Environmental Research, was the first of its kind to look at whether exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields in the day as opposed to the evening has any impact on sleep.

    Scientists said factors linking phones to sleep deprivation include mental stress, blue light exposure and electromagnetic fields emitted by devices (stock image)

    Scientists said factors linking phones to sleep deprivation include mental stress, blue light exposure and electromagnetic fields emitted by devices (stock image)

    Senior author Professor Monica Guxens, of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said: ‘Despite its importance to health, insufficient sleep duration and resultant daytime sleepiness are prevalent among adolescents. 

    ‘The use of mobile communication devices such as mobiles and tablets has been described as a potential factor.’

    Fellow author Alba Cabre-Riera, of University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, said: ‘Findings suggest the amount of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields absorbed by the brain in the evening might be more relevant to adolescents’ sleep.’