High amounts of daily social messaging and web surfing leads to an increase in symptoms of insomnia and depression in adolescents.

By Alexa Lardieri, Staff Writer
U.S. News & World Report

GREATER AMOUNTS OF electronic use throughout the day are linked to decreased sleep duration and an increase in insomnia and depressive symptoms in adolescents, according to a study presented Monday at SLEEP 2018, the 32nd annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

The study investigated four activities teens perform on electronic devices and how they impact the teens’ sleep and mood. A survey was given to 3,134 adolescents with a mean age of 15.6 years. It asked participants questions about their sleeping habits, including if they had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep and their sleep duration. They were also given a CES-D test, which is a screening test for depression. An abstract of the study was published in the journal Sleep.

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Teens reported the amount of hours they spent engaged in four screen-time activities: social messaging, web surfing, TV/movies and gaming.

The results show that extended periods of social messaging, web surfing and TV/movie watching increased insomnia symptoms and decreased sleep duration, which led to an increase in symptoms of depression. Additionally, greater amounts of each activity were associated with less sleep, leading to more depressive symptoms.

“Higher rates of depressive symptoms among teens may be partially explained through the ubiquitous use of screen-based activities, which can interfere with high quality restorative sleep,” co-researcher Xian Stella Li said in a press release. Li is a postdoctoral researcher at Stony Brook University.

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Screen Use and Your Family

Among the electronic activities, gaming had a significantly stronger relationship to depressive symptoms than messaging.

Principal Investigator Lauren Hale, a professor of family, population and preventive medicine at the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook Medicine, said in the press release, researchers are interested if the adverse effects of screen time continue into adulthood and hope the results can be used to mitigate screen time use.

“These results suggest that parents, educators and health care professionals could consider educating adolescents and regulating their screen time, as possible interventions for improving sleep health and reducing depression,” Hale said.

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Alexa Lardieri, Staff Writer