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Exposure to Touchscreens and TVs Can Disrupt Infant Sleep

Exposure to Touchscreens and TVs Can Disrupt Infant Sleep

A new study from Oxford Academic's Sleep Research Society suggests that touchscreens and televisions are disrupting the sleep of infants.

With increased screen time a substantial issue in the lives of families due to COVID-19,  there is increased focus on the effect it has on children and babies. According to a new study that will be published in an upcoming issue of Oxford University Press' SLEEP, infants as young as three months old may be more vulnerable to the effects of touchscreens. Screens may cause a disruptions to their sleep-wake rhythms, the study says, and age plays a substantial role in the relationship between the kind of screen exposure and sleep.

The study—led by researchers at Flinders University and Nanit (developers of the leading smart baby monitor and sleep tracker)—is the first to use sleep measurement to examine the connection between touchscreen and television exposure to daytime and nighttime sleep of infants. Researchers analyzed approximately 14,000 nights of sleep for over 1,000 infants along with the reporting of sleep and screen time from their parents. The study revealed:

  • Daytime touchscreen exposure is associated with decreased nighttime sleep in older infants. 13-month-olds on average lost 1-minute of nighttime sleep for each minute they used a touchscreen during the day.
  • Watching TV during the day was linked to shorter than average sleep duration. 3-month-olds that watched 34 minutes of TV during the day averaged 20 minutes less daytime sleep and 22 minutes less total sleep in 24 hours.
  • Age plays a more substantial role when it comes to touchscreen exposure compared to TV. 3-month-olds that were given five minutes of time with a touchscreen device during the day averaged 13 minutes less daytime sleep. 

"We see that even in moderation, screens can have a considerable impact on infant sleep," says Michael Kahn, Ph.D, lead author of the study and postdoctoral research fellow at Flinders University. "There is still much we have to explore in understanding the connection between screen time and sleep, but this research definitively shows us they are linked and the effects vary by age."

To view the full report, visit SLEEP

When examining screen time limits in your own children, apart from those of infants, don't focus solely on time. For instance, if kids are engaging with high-quality content that fuels imagination and curiosity, who's to say that they should end when their screen limit has been reached? The key, says Mike Robb, Ph.D., senior director of research at Common Sense Media and father of two, is to recognize that all screens are not equal. Age-appropriate, high-quality media is different than 10 hours of SpongeBob Squarepants.

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Melissa Wickes

Author: Melissa Wickes, a graduate of Binghamton University and the NYU Summer Publishing Institute, is the production editor for NYMetroParents. She's written hundreds of articles to help New York parents make better decisions for their families. When she's not writing, you can find her eating pasta, playing guitar, or watching reality TV. See More

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