Canadian researchers have found that electronic devices in a child’s bedroom can be linked to limited sleep and increased risk of a child being overweight or obese.
A province-wide survey of Grade 5 students in Alberta showed that as little as one hour of additional sleep decreased the odds of being overweight or obese by 28 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively. Children with one or more electronic devices in the bedroom — TVs, computers, video games and cellphones — were also far more likely to be overweight or obese.
Previous research has found that a bedroom TV or computer put an individual at greater risk for depression. “If you want your kids to sleep better and live a healthier lifestyle, get the technology out of the bedroom,” said co-author Paul Veugelers, Ph.D. He said the research is the first to connect the dots on the relationship between sleep, diet and physical activity among kids.
For the study, nearly 3,400 Grade 5 students were asked about their nighttime sleep habits and access to electronics through the REAL Kids Alberta survey. Half of the students had a TV, DVD player or video game console in their bedroom, 21 per cent had a computer and 17 per cent had a cellphone. Five per cent of students had all three types of devices. Fifty-seven percent of students reported using electronics after they were supposed to be asleep, with watching TV and movies being the most popular activity. Twenty-seven percent of students used or watched three or more activities after bedtime.
Researchers found that students with access to one electronic device were 1.47 times as likely to be overweight as kids with no devices in the bedroom. The proportion increased to 2.57 times for kids with three devices, with similar results reported among obese children. Additional sleep was significantly associated with more physical activity and better diet choices, researchers found.
Co-author Christina Fung noted that children today are not sleeping as much as previous generations, with two-thirds not getting the recommended hours of sleep per night. In addition to healthy lifestyle habits, a good night’s sleep has been linked to better academic outcomes, fewer mood disorders and other positive health outcomes, she said. “It’s important to teach these children at an earlier age and teach them healthy habits when they are younger.” Study results are found online in the journal Pediatric Obesity.