Studies have been demonstrating that some children are getting too little sleep, and that technology is driving some of the sleep deprivation. Studies have also shown that TV in a child's bedroom has been linked to less sleep. And interactive media devices like smart phones and video games may be more disruptive to sleep. This is in contract to TV viewing, which is a passive activity. Also, interactive devices are held very close to the face, meaning that light from the screens on these devices is more likely to interrupt melatonin secretion at night, which may further disrupt sleep. Finally, these interactive devices can disrupt sleep by text messages, which is not a problem with TV viewing.
This study was a cross-sectional survey of about 2000 4th and 7th graders in Massachusettes. They asked children about their TV viewing, small screen use (like cell phone, Ipad, etc), and various sleep parameters. Results showed that 54% of kids slept near a small screen and 75% slept with a TV in the room. Not surprisingly, a higher proportion of seventh graders slept near a small screen than 4th graders.
Children who slept near a small screen reported 21 fewer minutes of sleep per weekday when compared to those who did not sleep near a small screen. This effects was independent of having a TV in the room. Children who slept in a room with a TV reported sleeping 18 fewer minutes during the weekday than those without a TV in their room. This was independent of sleeping near a small screen. The results showed that the association between the screens and sleep duration resulted from a later bedtime. Sleeping near a small screen, but not a TV in the room, was associated with a 1.39 times the prevalence of perceived insufficient sleep or rest, even after adjusting for sleep duration. Not surprisingly, longer time watching TV or playing video games was associated with shorter weekday sleep duration, again accounted for by later bedtimes. And each hour spent watching TV or playing video games was associated with a higher prevalence of perceived insufficient sleep or rest. Interestingly, physical activity reduced the association between video games and perceived insufficient rest or sleep.
The study authors concluded that the small screens affect sleep quality more than TV viewing because of the stimulating content, calls, and audible text messaging while sleeping. They also mentioned that other mechanisms may contribute. For example, consuming caffeinated beverages near bedtime, evening exposure to bright light, and increased cognitive / emotional / physiologic arousal after playing video games, interacting on social media, or watching exciting / frightening TV content.