Rise of smartphones affected teenage sleep patterns: Study

Researchers say that teens are getting less sleep than they did before smartphones became commonplace, prompting concerns about potentially serious health consequences.

US study published in the current issue of the journal Sleep Medicine examined data from two surveys of U.S. adolescents conducted over many years and including questions about how many hours of sleep they got. Almost 370,000 adolescents participated.

Zlatan Krizan, a psychologist specializing in sleep and social behaviour at Iowa State University and co-author of the study said, the research  focused on how much sleep teens reported getting in the years from 2009 to 2015, “when the mobile technology really saturated the market among adolescents.”

Over the course of that six-year period, they found “a seismic shift in the amount of sleep that a typical teen gets.”

Krizan and his colleagues found that teens were 16 to 17 % more likely to report getting less than seven hours of sleep a night in 2015 than they were in 2009.

The recommended amount of sleep for 13 to 18-year-olds is eight to 10 hours per night.

Other factors besides electronic devices were looked at that might affect the amount of sleep teens were getting, including working after school, homework and watching TV, but the number of hours spent on those activities remained “relatively stable or reduced” between 2009 and 2015.

Kirzan stressed,  “The only factor that also increased during the time that could be responsible for the shortened sleep is social media, news online and the kind of activities that mobile phones are used for.”

Getting enough sleep in adolescence is very important. In addition to immediate effects, such as performance in school, sleep habits established in the teen years can contribute to sleep patterns and health for adulthood.

Lack of sleep has been linked to health problems ranging from obesity and diabetes to depression and substance use.

Lack of sleep is an issue affecting more and more teens, said Dr. Rachel Morehouse, medical director of the Atlantic Sleep Centre at Saint John Regional Hospital in New Brunswick.