We’ve been told time and time again that too much screen time before bed can affect how long it takes us to fall asleep and our overall sleep quality. But a new study has revealed that primary school children are losing up to 8 hours of sleep a week.
Research conducted by Dr John Shaw from De Montfort University (opens in new tab) examined the role of social media use and sleep quality in pre-teens, which was carried out in schools across Leicester where the university is based. The research found that children aged 10 who use social media before they go to sleep are getting less sleep and are more likely to suffer from anxiety and FOMO (fear of missing out).
The study found that 10-11 year olds are only getting an average 8.7 hours of sleep a night. While that doesn’t sound too bad to the adults in the room, the amount of NHS-recommended sleep for this age group is 9-12 hours of sleep per night, meaning children are losing the equivalent of a full night’s sleep every week.
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The research was presented at the British Science Festival this week and also reported that 69% of children who took part in the study spent more than 4 hours a day on social media. The study showed that 66% used social media two hours before bed and 12.5% used it in the middle of the night or when they should be sleeping. Unsurprisingly, the most popular (or main culprits) social media sites were TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram.
A lack of sleep is damaging to everyone, but especially school age children. Experts suggest that this lack of sleep can be linked to increased stress, less focus and bad academic performance. During sleep is also when growth hormones are released so sleep deprivation can mess with growth and development as well.
At the British Science Festival, Dr Shaw was noted as saying (opens in new tab) “It has an impact on cognitive and biological development. When they sleep, it’s very important for emotion processing, memory consolidation, creativity and problem solving. When you’re not getting enough sleep, those processes don’t get a chance to occur.”
It’s all well and good asking your kids not to use their phone before bed, but adults aren’t exactly out of the woods on this one either. We’re all guilty when it comes to having a quick scroll before bed, so here are a few tips on how to minimise screen time for a good night’s sleep.
Create a peaceful sleep environment
Before you jump into the sheets, create a peaceful sleeping environment with no distractions. This could mean making your bed more inviting with the best duvet (opens in new tab) or best pillows (opens in new tab), or tidying away your clothes. On your bedside table, keep it stocked with water and anything that can help you get to sleep like a book or some essential oils (opens in new tab). For most of us – kids included – our phone is our alarm clock, so once you’ve set your alarms, set your phone to the side… literally, put it on the other side of the room far far away from you.
Set a cut off time for electronics
This is key to cutting down on screen time before bed. In your household, set a cut off time for electronics for the entire family. As the study found, children are using their phone 2 hours before bed, so try to encourage them to put down the phone around 1-2 hours before their bedtime. Make yours and their bed a ‘no phone zone’ so neither of you will be tempted to have a quick scroll while you’re tucked in.
Have a bedtime routine
Finally, an idea that works for both you and your kids is having a structured bedtime routine. Having a routine in place can ensure you get the optimal amount of sleep that will leave you refreshed and ready for the day. Plan things out like when you or your kids should be brushing their teeth, in pyjamas, reading a book, etc. Having this busy time means you’re less likely to get distracted and want to turn to your phone.
For more sleep tips, check out these 5 techniques to falling asleep quickly (opens in new tab) and why teenagers sleep late (opens in new tab).