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Children using devices such as smartphones and tablets at bedtime have over double the risk of a disrupted night’s sleep.

Previous research suggests that 72 per cent of children and 89 per cent of adolescents have at least one device in their bedrooms and most are used near bedtime. The speed at which these devices have developed - and their growing popularity among families - has outpaced research in this area, meaning that the impact on sleep is not well understood.

This new research from King's College London, published in JAMA Pediatrics, is a review of 20 existing studies from four continents, involving more than 125,000 children aged 6-19 (with an average age of 15). The researchers found that bedtime use of media devices was associated with an increased likelihood of inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Bedtime use was classified as engagement with a device within 90 minutes of going to sleep.

They also found that the presence of a media device in the bedroom, even without use, was associated with an increased likelihood of poor sleep. One potential reason for this is that the ‘always on’ nature of social media and instant messaging means children are continuously engaged with devices in their environment, even when they are not actively using them. It is thought that screen-based media devices adversely affect sleep through a variety of ways, including delaying or interrupting sleep time; psychologically stimulating the brain; and affecting sleep cycles, physiology and alertness.