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Late-night media use causing sleep-problems in teens?

Researchers recorded the kids’ activities after they entered their bedroom for the night and were supposed to be sleeping. A majority of them do not sleep; they are mostly busy with their cell phones or computers.

Staying up late to use electronic media is becoming a habit with the teens, who are suffering mood and cognitive problems because of their night-time indulgence with cellphones, video games and internet.

A new research has revealed that children who pull out their cell phones, computers and other electronic devices right at bedtime are more likely to suffer sleep disorders that cause other difficulties.

While girls were more into texting, boys were more likely to stay awake playing video games

Sleep disorders due to excessive media use
The research involved 40 students ages 8 to 22 years old, who were all treated at the JFK Medical Center Sleep Laboratory in Edison, N.J., where the study was conducted.

It was found that about 77 percent of the kids had trouble falling asleep; others had daytime sleepiness.

But it is not surprising, considering they send an average 34 text messages or e-mails a night, and about 3,400 texts per month.

Researchers recorded the kids’ activities after they entered their bedroom for the night and were supposed to be sleeping. A majority of them do not sleep; they are mostly busy with their cell phones or computers.

How is electronic media affecting kids
They were reported to be using electronic media anywhere from 10 minutes to four hours after bedtime.

“Media opportunities like texting and games are worse than TV because they are interactive,” says Dr. Peter Polos, lead researcher and a specialist in sleep medicine at the Sleep Disorder Center at JFK Medical Center. “Removing these distractions would maximize children’s sleep time. Bedtime is bedtime and lights out.”

While activities like reading a novel or listening to music can be sleep-promoting, Dr. Polos notes that using electronic media works just the opposite by stimulating the brain and depressing normal sleep cycles.

While girls were more into texting, boys were more likely to stay awake playing video games, according to the study, to be presented today at the meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The use of late-night electronic media was found to be linked with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, mood swings, anxiety, depression and poor cognitive functioning (thinking skills) during the day.

However, everyone in the study had gone to the clinic with a problem, the study could not prove that late night media use causes severe problems.

Parents should not take it lightly
However, a problem is definitely suspected, and experts say that parents cannot afford to be indifferent about it. About half of the parents of study participants didn't know what the kids were up to, said Polos. Those who knew were mostly not bothered about it.

“They [parents] thought, 'This is the world we live in, what can you do?'” said Polos.

But he advised the parents to be more cautious and monitor their children’s activities closely, because “at the end of the day, the parent is still the parent, the child is still the child.”