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Published: 4 May 2015

Psychologist Questions Teen Screen Advice

An hour of screen time immediately before bed is fine for most teenagers, according to research by an Australian university.

BUT two hours is too much and likely to disrupt their sleep, says Associate Professor Michael Gradisar, a clinical psychologist at Flinders University in Adelaide.

He says a review of four years of studies at the university and around the world shows moderate technology use isn’t as harmful for adolescent sleep as many health professionals and parents believe.

“Experiments with video games show that if you give an experienced gamer a violent game before bed, their heart rate is not elevated and they sleep quite fine.”

It’s like they’ve adjusted to using technology, he says.

“This evidence challenges the idea that sleep problems in young people are because of technology.”

A more common reason is anxiety or “body clock mistiming”, which is similar to what happens when a person has jet lag.

“For the majority of the population, an hour of technology use before bed seems fine. But anything longer than two hours appears to be detrimental to sleep.”

However, the Australasian Sleep Association says it is still best for teenagers to avoid technology for at least an hour before bed.

“Sleep is a complex biological process and further research is needed to translate the findings of this research into a recommendation,” says spokesperson Dr Sadasivam Suresh, a paediatric sleep specialist.

“This research is valuable in adding information on actual sleep patterns in modern society. It is good science that helps us to understand sleep and health better.”

Comment by Dr Bowden of Go Psychology (Clinical Psychologist)

Research shows that teenagers are not getting enough sleep with many teenagers only getting around 6-7 hours of sleep per night when they really need about 9-10 hours.  Sleep is a very important component in brain development and the teenagers brain needs sleep in order to develop in the way that it is supposed to.  While I agree that one hour of screen time will be fine for teenagers, the average teenager is spending far more time behind a screen than this.

As a Clinical Psychologist I am very interested in the disconnection between teenagers and their families as a result of technology.

I recommend that teenagers do something relaxing around one hour prior to going to bed, and to only go to bed when feeling sleepy.  As humans we need time to relax our bodies and minds prior to sleep.  Teenagers would benefit from talking about their day to their families in order to reduce laying in bed worrying at night.  Worry is the main cause of initial insomnia, which is the struggle to get to sleep when first going to bed.

As with most things in life, if we adopt a moderation approach then we can’t do too much harm, so a little bit of screen time and a little bit of relaxation before bed will do teenagers wonders

Go Psychology is able to give you expert advice in relation to gaining better sleep.  We can be contacted on (07) 5580 9212.

Dr Paul Bowden, is a Clinical Psychologist and Director of Go Psychology Robina on the Gold Coast.

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