Preliminary results from a new US study suggest that teens who spend a large amount of their time in front of a screen have higher risk of insomnia symptoms and shorter sleep duration, which in turns leads to a greater risk of depression.
Carried out by researchers at Stony Brook University, Penn State University, and University of Wisconsin-Madison, the study looked at data on 2,865 adolescents with an average age of 15.63 years who were taking part in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study's teen survey.
The survey questioned the teens on their sleep characteristics, two insomnia symptoms (problems falling asleep and problems staying asleep), habitual weeknight sleep duration, and depressive symptoms.
Participants were also asked to report on the typical number of hours spent each day on four screen-based activities -- social messaging, web surfing, TV/movies, and gaming.
After looking at the associations between screen time, sleep (insomnia symptoms and duration), and depressive symptoms, the team found that social messaging, web surfing and TV/movie watching explained the association between screen-based activities and depressive symptoms.
In addition, more time spent on each screen activity was associated with more insomnia symptoms and shorter sleep duration, which was further associated with greater 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." commented postdoctoral researcher Xian Stella Li.
"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," added principal investigator Lauren Hale. "We're very interested to see whether the adverse influences of social media and screen use on sleep and mental health persist during the transition to adulthood."
The research abstract can be found published online in a supplement of the journal Sleep. The findings were also presented on Monday, June 4, in Baltimore at SLEEP 2018, the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS), which is a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.