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Technology to blame for teens' poor sleep health

By Brooks Hays
Technology use is affecting adolescent sleep health. Photo by junpinzon/Shutterstock
Technology use is affecting adolescent sleep health. Photo by junpinzon/Shutterstock

OSLO, Norway, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- A growing body of research is making it clear that a face full of glowing technology -- tablets, smartphones, laptops -- is not the ideal way to prepare for a restorative night in bed. Tech is changing the way we learn, communicate and conduct business, but it's also changing the way we sleep, for the worse.

A new study suggests today's generation of teenagers are especially vulnerable to the sleep-related consequences of tech overuse. A survey of more than 10,000 boys and girls in Norway, ages 16 to 19, revealed that tech usage corresponded with poorer sleep habits.

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"There are indications that today's teenagers sleep less than previous generations," study co-author Mari Hysing, a psychologist at Norway's Uni Research Health, told NBC News. "There are some aspects of electronic devices that may give an additional arousal; the [screen] light may impact sleep hormone production, and also the social communication aspect" may keep teens up late chatting.

Survey respondents who admitted to more than four hours of tech usage were more likely to need an extra hour of time to fall asleep and were less likely to get the proper amount of sleep. The same trend held true for those who acknowledged using more than one tech device over the course of the day.

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On Monday, the National Sleep Foundation upped its sleep recommendations for teenagers by an hour, suggesting teens between the ages of 14 and 17 need eight to 10 hours of sleep each night.

"This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety," Charles A. Czeisler, the head of the foundation's board, said in a press release.

The new study shows teens who use at least two to three tech devices during the day are more likely to get less than five hours of restorative sleep when compared to teens who used only one device.

"We cannot conclude which time during the day was more detrimental [to sleep], but it seems that it is the cumulative daily amount which is important," Hysing added.

But at least one expert on adolescent health suggests a focus on screen time totals is a distraction, and that parents and healthcare providers need to stress healthy habits like exercise and diet (not a cap on device usage) to promote better sleep habits.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa told NBC that screen time quantity was an "outdated concept."

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"Homework alone often requires hours of screen use, and that is unlikely to change," she said.

But experts say the new research, at the very least, is more evidence that technology use prior to bedtime is not a good idea.

The new study was published this week in the journal BMJ.

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