Teens Lose Sleep Over New Technologies
First Published: Enews - June 2010
Flinders investigations are leading the world in determining whether video game playing and electronic media use can have an impact on a teenager's sleep.
In a study at the Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic at Flinders, 13 teenagers were assessed over the course of a few weeks as to how long it took them to fall asleep after 50 minutes of video game playing before bedtime, or 50 minutes of watching a relaxing DVD.
The study, led by Dr Michael Gradisar, found that those who played video games before bed took nearly double the length of time to fall asleep as the DVD watchers, although the difference was only an average of three or four minutes.
As was expected, a third of the teenagers also fell asleep while watching the DVD but none fell asleep while playing the video game.
"While the difference in falling asleep was only a matter of minutes it seems a small amount of activity does seem to produce a small effect," Dr Gradisar said. "Now we want to investigate whether there will be a bigger effect on sleep if the teenagers play for longer."
Dr Gradisar's research has found sleep problems occur in up to 50 per cent of South Australian children and adolescents at some stage of their
development, and 70 teenagers have been treated at the Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic at Flinders since it opened in 2006.
The effects of sleep deprivation on young people can have "significant consequences" on their school attendance and learning and concentration levels.
"Poor sleep during teenage years has also been linked to elevated levels of depression," Dr Gradisar said.
"Parents should be mindful about even having electronic media in their kids' bedrooms - televisions, mp3 players, computers, mobile phones.
"It is well known that television viewing before bedtime is associated with young people going to bed later and getting less sleep, but even mobile phones can emit a lot of light at night which can also have an effect on a teenager's body clock."