Dutch kids sleeping poorly because of tablet, smartphone use: study

Teenagers with smartphones and tablets
Teenagers with smartphones and tabletsPhoto: shmeljov/DepositPhotos

Screen time is affecting children's sleeping behavior, public health institute RIVM concluded in its first ever study into the effect of smartphones, tablets and televisions on the sleep of kids between the ages of 8 and 18. Because of screen use, children postpone their sleep and go to sleep later. Teenagers sleep an average of 40 minutes less. Teenagers also wake up more often at night and have more difficulty staying awake during the day, RTL Nieuws reports.

"The most important thing we noticed is that minors sleep worse because of their telephone use. We now know that they're on their phone till late and this affects their sleep", a RIVM spokesperson said to the broadcaster. "We want more awareness. So take it seriously if your child struggles with this during the day."

The study showed that 39 percent of children between the ages of 8 and 13 years use a screen in the evening every day. Among teenagers aged 13 to 18 it is 86 percent. A lot of the screen time takes place in the evening. 76 percent of teenagers use their computer, smartphone and tablet for at least two hours each night. 

The time spent on screens keep both children and teenagers up later at night. Teenagers lose up to 40 minutes of sleep per night because of this. Teens fall asleep less easily because they are still too active. The blue screen also inhibits the production of sleep hormone melatonin, causing teenagers to sleep poorly. 

Sleep expert Hans Hamburger told RTL Nieuws that too little sleep can make you depressed, decrease your performance at school and increases the risk of obesity, addiction, diabetes, and even infections.

According to him, the advent of tablets and smartphones changed the lifestyle of almost all adolescents considerably. "The young people sit well into the night texting, Snapchatting, or watching videos and series. That makes the natural bedtime of eleven o'clock quickly turn into one in the morning." 

If you want a good night's rest, you have to turn off the screens two hours before bedtime, Hamburg said. "You stay awake from the activities themselves. But the blue light from screens also defer sleep. Because it strongly inhibits the production of the sleep hormone melatonin in your body", he said to the broadcaster. "Children have to go to bed earlier and not sit on their tablet or phone in the evening." Rather read a book. "They'll sleep much better."

Children of elementary school age need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep, and teenagers in high school between 9 and 10 hours.