Trading smartphone time for sleep? Your loss

teen texting in bed
More teens than ever aren’t getting enough sleep. Smartphones may be to blame, researchers now suspect.

Increasingly, U.S. teens are trading sleep time for screen time. That’s the finding of a new study. It analyzed survey data from hundreds of thousands of adolescents. And they showed that the share of teens who are losing more sleep and logging more screen time rose dramatically between 2009 and 2015.

Most sleep experts agree that from ages 12 to 17, teenagers need about nine hours of sleep a night. When teens don’t get enough shut-eye, their bodies and minds suffer.

“Lack of sleep is linked to depression, anxiety, poor school performance and obesity,” says Jean Twenge. A psychologist who works at San Diego State University in California, she is the lead author of the new study.

Her team shared its findings in the November issue of Sleep Medicine.

Changing trends

The researchers scouted for changes over time in teens’ online activity and sleep patterns. To do this, they pored over U.S. data from two long-running national surveys. Each had asked students about their sleep habits. Together, those surveys included data on some 370,000 teens.

In 2015, more than four in every 10 adolescents logged fewer than seven hours of sleep a night. That’s at least two hours less than experts recommend. That’s also about 17 percent more teens than slept fewer than seven hours nightly just six years earlier.

Twenge and her team think smartphones have something to do with teens’ diminishing sleep.

Beginning around 2009, smartphone use among the general U.S. population went up sharply, Twenge notes. Her team now suspects teens are increasingly foregoing sleep for texting, using social media or watching videos on their phones. Teens who used electronic devices at least five hours a day were 50 percent more likely not to get enough sleep, they found. That’s compared to students who spent only an hour a day on such devices.

Twenge’s group also looked into whether TV watching, homework or after-school jobs were linked to falling sleep time. In fact, none of those appeared…

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