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Sleep and screen time: Selected reading

3 min read

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The importance of sleep and achieving good-quality sleep

Research has repeatedly highlighted the importance of sleep for wellbeing and academic achievement. When we get enough high-quality sleep we are better rested, which allows us to concentrate and process information much better. During puberty, circadian rhythms (i.e. the sleep and wake cycles) often shift so that adolescents get tired later in the night and find it more difficult to wake up in the morning.

One solution for sleep-deprived teenagers and resulting decreased academic performance is to delay school starting times, allowing teenagers to get enough sleep, which in turn helps them to concentrate on their lessons and study for exams. What sounds like a utopian ideal has been tested in a number of schools across the world and results are promising. However, it seems that there might be an even simpler solution – providing adolescents with the right pillows. The collection of articles below discusses the science behind adolescents’ increased need for sleep, research around delaying school starting times and how the right pillows can help adolescents to get more sleep:

Why does the teenage brain need more sleep? The Conversation

Delay school start times to help teenagers catch up on sleep, The Conversation

A Low-Tech fix to sleep-deprived teens, The Conversation

Academic papers about sleep

If you are interested in finding out more about the science behind the link between sleep and academic performance, this collection of academic papers allows you to explore this issue in more detail. They largely cover the same topics as the shorter versions above and discuss how quality, quantity and timing influence sleep quality, how later school start times can impact sleep and, in turn, academic performance, and why circadian rhythms change during adolescence:

Research Digests on Sleep from ACAMH’s journals Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry (JCPP) and Child & Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH)

Sleep and academic performance in later adolescents, Journal of sleep research

Sleep and academic performance: considering amount, quality and timing, Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences

Later school start times: The Impact of Sleep on Academic Performance and Health in the Adolescent Population, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Wider resources and training around sleep

ACAMH Sleep Topic Guide

ACAMH: ‘CAMHS around the campfire’ – Sleep, anxiety, and depression

If you want to find out even more about sleep and its importance for mental and physical health, you can explore this topic in more depth in this free online course:

RSPH | Understanding Sleep: Don’t Hit Snooze on Your Health

More about the principles of good (not more) sleep are discussed in this blog by the Mental Health Foundation. 

The impact of screen time

Debates about screen time can often get very heated. On the one hand, arguments about the negative impact of screen time on sleep patterns, academic achievement and behaviour are put forward. On the other hand, the potential of education technology for children, teachers and schools is lauded. And in the middle, one can find more nuanced debates that differentiate between different kinds of screen time (active, passive) and their impact on children and adolescents. In this collection of articles, you can explore a range of arguments around screen time, different forms of screen time and how the time of the day may affect its impact on children and adolescents: 

Study suggests no causal link between screen time and later symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity, The Conversation

Why screen time for children and babies needs to be limited, The Conversation 

How to select high-quality educational apps for preschoolers, Impact

Associations between screen time and lower well-being among children and adolescents, Preventing Medicine Reports

Energy expenditure of sedentary screen time compared with active screen time for children

Screen time, social media and developing brains: a cause for good or corrupting young minds? CAMH Editorial

The relationship between sleep and screen time

Why screen time before bed is bad for children

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