I am always excited to see the National Sleep Foundation’s poll. Since 1991, the Foundation has chosen one topic per year to investigate, and they poll around 1,000 respondents.

This year’s poll focused on “sleep in the modern family.” The Foundation surveyed parents regarding their children’s sleep habits, electronics, and enforcement of bedtime rules.

The results of the National Sleep Foundation’s poll confirmed that the use of electronics in bedrooms continues to be a huge part of American family life. Unfortunately this means that children as well as adults, continue to use electronic devices up until they go to sleep, which results in delayed bedtimes and disturbed sleep.

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Parents were asked to describe the usage of electronics in their home. The survey found that 89% of adults and 75% of children have at least one electronic device in their bedroom.

Televisions are the most common electronic device found in the bedroom, according to the poll’s results. The second most popular electronics are smartphones and tablets (which were grouped together in the survey).

I am not a proponent of television in the bedroom for adults, but I think it is a huge mistake for children. Many of these devices stay on throughout the night.

The median number of devices varied with age. Younger children, those aged 6 to 11 years typically had one device, whereas children aged 15 to 17 years had up to three devices in their rooms at night.

Results from the study showed that sleep quality was significantly worse for children who left the television, tablet/smartphone or music player on at night. I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone, yet many of the parents indicated that they did not think their children were negatively affected by having electronics in their rooms.

Talk to your patients about their children’s use of electronics in the bedroom. A bedroom should be for sleep.

  • Encourage patients to have children bring their electronics out of the bedroom before bedtime and to discontinue use one to two hours before bedtime
  • Instead of watching television, suggest other activities such as reading a book, relaxing, taking a bath or enjoying time with family.
  • Suggest establishing a household rule about a “texting curfew.” No texting after a pre-determined hour to keep children from waking up and texting their friends throughout the night.

Remember that a child’s sleep habits are formed in their early years. Poor sleep hygiene as a child is only setting the stage for poor sleep as a teenager and adult. 

Sharon M. O’Brien, MPAS, PA-C, is a practicing clinician with an interest is helping patients understand the importance of sleep hygiene and the impact of sleep on health.