One in three teens lose sleep over gadgets, social media: Study  

  • Anonna Dutt, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 19, 2016 15:02 IST
Nearly 66% of teenagers surveyed attributed postponing bedtime to chatting with friends and 39% to watching television or movies. (Shutterstock)

Social media obsession and technology addiction force one in three teens to sleep for less than five hours a day, shows a study by a private hospital.

Teenagers are at an important stage of their growth and development and should sleep for six to eight hours, say doctors. Their sleep pattern dictates health well being in later life.

Sleeplessness can make a person irritable, depressed and reduce their concentration. It can manifest as physical problems and even weaken the immune system. A late bedtime and the lack of a fixed bedtime were the top reasons for their sleeplessness, said the study of 550 students in NCR by the mental health and behavioral sciences department at Fortis Healthcare.

One in four students had no fixed bedtime. Only 24% went to bed at 10 pm, 33% at 11 pm, and 15% at midnight. “Unhealthy bedtime behaviour is fed by excessive use of cellphones, the urge to stay connected at all times on smartphones, and watching movies in bed. Parents do the same, so children mimic their behaviour,” said Dr Samir Parikh, director (mental health and behavioral sciences) at Fortis Healthcare, who led the study.

Nearly 66% of those surveyed attributed postponing bedtime to chatting with friends and 39% to watching television or movies. Forty eight percent said they had disturbed sleep because of the urge to check phones even in the middle of the night.

Doctors recommend physical activity for 20 to 40 minutes daily, a light dinner and avoiding caffeine in the evening for a good night’s rest. Owing to a changing lifestyle, they say all gadgets should be shut for half-an-hour before bedtime in favour of reading a book.

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But the study showed that 54% watched television in bed and 42% used their laptop. More than half the students said they never switched off their cell phones. “Easy access to technology offers too many distractions for children. Many face peer pressure to chat with their friends late at night and get addicted to social media or online gaming,” said Dr Sameer Malhotra, director (mental and behavioural sciences) at Max Healthcare.

He sees around 15–20 cases of technology addiction every month. “More children are presenting with social media or gaming obsession which makes them irritable, angry, disobedient and neglect personal hygiene,” said Dr Malhotra.

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However, the answer may not lie in cutting off internet connections. “A blanket ban does not work, but discretion and control on the part of the parents is necessary. They must give supervised access so that children don’t get addicted,” said Dr Achal Bhagat, a senior consulting psychiatrist at Apollo Healthcare.

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