A study conducted on nearly 10,000 teenagers has now confirmed that too much of screen time can affect their sleep patterns. 16 to 19 year olds who use a computer or a mobile phone just before hitting the bed are more likely to take more an extra hour to doze off as compared to their counterparts who don’t take technology to bed.

Though parents have long suspected it and warned their kids about spending too much time on their gadgets, they now have science to back up their claims. Not only are they likely to take longer to sleep but also sleep for a lesser time. The evidence pointing in this direction is so overwhelmingly strong that health experts are already suggesting parents of teenagers to overhaul guidelines on usage of gadgets.

10,000 youngsters aged 16 to 19 in Hordaland county, western Norway were questioned by this team and asked to elaborate about their sleeping patterns, how long they looked at a screen outside of school hours and the type of gadget they used.

A majority of the respondents said they needed eight to nine hours of sleep on an average to feel rested. It was found that those with screen time of more than four hours a day were three-and-a-half times likelier to sleep fewer than five hours at night. Sleep duration was seen to nosedive as gadget use increased.

They also were 49 percent likelier to need more than 60 minutes to fall asleep. Adults normally nod off in under 30 minutes.

“Using a gadget in the hour before bedtime badly affects both onset of sleep and its duration. In particular, teens who used a computer or mobile phone in the last hour were 52 and 48 percent likelier to take more than 60 minutes to fall asleep,” it was pointed out.

Though the results of the study are not path-breaking, it does go on to corroborate the fears of parents of teenagers who are hooked on to gadgets. Dr Mari Hysing and colleagues at Uni Research Health, Bergen believe it could be because too much gadget usage leaves teens with less time to do other things, including sleep while not ruling out that too much screen time interferes with sleepiness.

Staring at an illuminated screen at bedtime could send the wrong signals to our brain, disrupting our natural body clock making us more alert, they suggest.

Dr Hysing said her findings had implications for the wider population as so many people use these devices.

“We know that sufficient sleep is essential for good physical and mental health. Logging off may be one important step toward securing a good night’s sleep.”

While it is difficult to specify HOW much is TOO much, both parents and teenagers can definitely try to cut down on gadget usage for an hour before hitting the bed to improve upon the sleep duration and quality.

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