Children as young as six are losing precious hours of sleep because they spend too much time on electronic gadgets before bed

  • More than a third of six-year-olds are allowed used gadgets an hour before bed
  • A study found children who use gadgets before bed lose 121 hours of sleep a year
  • Smartphones and tablets produce blue light believed to disrupt sleep signals 
  • Dr Anna Weighall said: ‘Good-quality sleep is essential for a child’s development’ 

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Children as young as six are losing hours of sleep after using electronic gadgets before bed.

More than a third of six-year-olds are allowed to sit in front of tablets, laptops and smartphones in the hour before bedtime, a study has found.

Children who do this get 20 minutes less sleep a night on average than those who avoid electronic devices. That adds up to more than two hours’ lost sleep a week, or 121 hours in a year.

A study led by the University of Sheffield questioned 1,000 British parents with children aged six to 11 about their sleep habits. 

Children as young as six are losing hours of sleep after using electronic gadgets before bed. The study led by the University of Sheffield found children are losing 121 hours in a year (stock image)

They found 60 per cent of 11-year-olds use technology in the hour before bed. 

This is concerning because smartphones and tablets produce blue light, which is believed to disrupt important signals that tell the body it is dark and time to go to sleep, and to suppress the sleep hormone melatonin.

Lead author Dr Anna Weighall, a development cognitive psychologist from the University of Sheffield, who conducted the research, said: ‘Good-quality sleep is essential for a child’s development, and a lack of sleep can have a very real impact on their day-to-day lives, as well as having long-term health implications.

‘Technology can benefit our lives in so many ways, but parents need to be aware of the negative impact it can have on children when it comes to sleep. The presence of tablets and phones in a child’s bedroom, even if they are switched off, can leave them feeling unsettled which will have an effect on their sleeping patterns.’

The concern is that smartphones and tablets produce blue light, which is believed to disrupt important signals that tell the body it is dark and time to go to sleep, and to suppress the sleep hormone melatonin (stock image)

The concern is that smartphones and tablets produce blue light, which is believed to disrupt important signals that tell the body it is dark and time to go to sleep, and to suppress the sleep hormone melatonin (stock image)

The research, done with bed manufacturer Silentnight, found 40 per cent of parents let their six-year-olds use technology in the hour before bedtime, with one in six ‘often’ permitting this.

These parents were asked for the average bedtimes of their children and when they woke up, as were those who banned all electronic devices in the hour before bedtime.

Those children who used phones, laptops and tablets before bed at age six got 20 minutes less sleep than those who did not, on average. 

They also got less sleep if they were allowed to take electronic devices into their rooms.

Experts have warned that the majority of children, like their exhausted parents, are now getting less sleep than they need, with this trend worsening as they approach secondary school age (stock image)

Experts have warned that the majority of children, like their exhausted parents, are now getting less sleep than they need, with this trend worsening as they approach secondary school age (stock image)

It has been shown that very young children who are sleep-deprived perform worse in school and struggle to concentrate in class, with the NHS recommending that six-year-olds sleep for ten hours and 45 minutes a night.

Experts have warned that the majority of children, like their exhausted parents, are now getting less sleep than they need, with this trend worsening as they approach secondary school age.

Dr Weighall said: ‘It can be really hard being a parent.

‘But having clear rules about the use of technology close to bedtime and a regular routine are small changes that have the potential to make a really big difference to our children’s daily lives.’



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