Skip to main content

Screens and Sleep


A child's room is no place for a television set. For years that has been the warning from pediatricians all over the world. Now though, they are saying it isn't the place for a smart phone or other small screen device as well. A new article in the journal Pediatrics shows kids who have access to these devices may actually get LESS sleep than their counterparts that have access to TV. "What this really shows is a screen is a screen," says Cindy Gellner, MD, a pediatrician with University of Utah Health. "It doesn't matter the size of it, any screen time should be limited to 2 hours or less per day and not within 30 minutes before the desired bedtime."

The study looked at the habits of more than 2-thousand middle school age kids, some with televisions in their rooms, some with access to small screen devices, and some without either. They found those with TVs got 18 minutes less of sleep than those without any access. Those with small screen access got 21 minutes less. "While the sleep loss is just minutes, the impact is still great," says Gellner. "Physical and mental development rely on every second of sleep a child gets."

It wasn't just about getting to sleep either. Kids who slept with screens reported their sleep was likely to be interrupted. That was not seen in their peers with TV access. "Once you turn your television off, it's off," says Gellner, "but with your phone, unless you shut it completely off, it can still be making noise or flashing images that can disturb sleep. And for some kids, the quality of sleep can be affected by the anticipation of those alerts."

"The best thing to do is make bedrooms screen free zones," says Gellner. "Kids should establish a bedtime routine that includes parking their device, so they can learn to put themselves to sleep and develop healthy sleep habits."