Touchscreen use linked to sleep problems in infants and toddlers
In the first study of its kind to be performed among such young children, the researchers investigated associations between frequency of touchscreen use and sleep patterns in infants and toddlers aged 6–36 months. Data were derived from 715 parental responses to an online survey regarding infant and toddler daily exposure to media such as TV and touchscreens as well as patterns of sleep (nighttime and daytime sleep duration, sleep onset, and frequency of sleep awakening). Structural equation models were used to adjust for age, gender, TV exposure, and maternal education.
Infants and toddlers with greater exposure to touchscreens were found to have significantly shorter nighttime sleep and significantly longer daytime sleep, as well as significant delays in sleep onset. Every additional hour of touchscreen use was associated with an overall reduction in sleep of 15.6 minutes. Only frequency of sleep awakening was not significantly affected by touchscreen use.
Exposure to TV and videogames has previously been linked to poorer sleep and developmental outcomes in older children, but the advent of portable touchscreen devices appears to have extended this effect downwards in age.
The researchers suggest that further longitudinal studies are required to clarify their findings as well as to determine possible mechanisms underlying the observed associations.