Teen Sleep + Phones

More and more research is being done on the importance of teen sleep. At the same time, studies on the use and overuse of smart phones and their effects on teens are coming out regularly. The latest study, overlaps the two topics.

The Washington Post recently came out with a report on the study, based on a poll of 1,000 children and parents by the consumer advocacy group Common Sense, who wanted a comprehensive look of the impact of mobile devices on teen sleep patterns. Researchers have warned that poor teen sleep patterns can undermine cognitive functioning and mental health while increasing obesity rates.

The most surprising findings concerned the round-the-clock nature of how teens use mobile devices. Many reported using their phones moments before bedtime, almost immediately upon rising and at least occasionally during the night; the main activities included checking social media, playing games and watching videos.

The Common Sense study, entitled, “The New Normal: Parents, Teens, Screens, and Sleep in the United States,” found that 68 percent of parents believe their teenage children spend “too much time” on their mobile devices, and 61 percent believe their teenagers are “addicted” — about the same as the group found in a similar study in 2016.

Ironically, the teens themselves are feeling better about their use of mobile devices than in that study, when 50 percent reported feeling “addicted” to smartphones, compared with 39 percent in the study released Wednesday.

The concerns about the overuse of mobile devices are not limited to teens. Nearly half of parents surveyed for the study reported feeling personally “addicted” to their devices, and 83 percent keep them in their bedrooms at night, with 12 percent keeping the devices in bed with them.

When speaking to The Washinton Post, Psychologist Jean Twenge, who warned in her 2017 book “iGen” of the ill effects of social media and smartphone use by teens, called the Common Sense findings about devices in bedrooms “stunning and horrifying.”

“I knew the problem was bad, but I didn’t know it was this bad,” Twenge said. “There’s lots and lots and lots of studies in medical journals showing that people who keep their devices next to them when they sleep don’t sleep as well, and they also don’t sleep as long.”

Experts say the blue light emitted by the screens of mobile devices is associated with poor sleep but mobile devices also can cause emotional stimulation — through violent games or engaging forms of social media — that also can impair sleep or simply delay the moment when people fall asleep.

Project B3 urges you and your family members (especially your preteens and teens!) to strive for your bedrooms to be “No Phone Zones.” If this idea sounds unbearable at first, try “baby steps” to reach your goal. If you sleep with your phone in your bed, start by sleeping with your phone on your nightstand for two nights. Then, move it across the room. Next, move it to the hallway. When you are ready, a few nights later, move it to the kitchen or a room where you cannot hear or see your device. Within a month, you will barely remember the days when you used to snuggle with your smartphone and you’ll be sleeping like a baby.