Sleep in adolescents how it is affected by the use of electronic devices

in Sleep Research and Insights


Fellow research review of: “Sleep and use of electronic devices in adolescence: results from a large population-based study,” a research conducted by Mari Hysing, Ståle Pallesen, Kjell Morten Stormark, Reidar Jakobsen, Astri J Lundervold, and Børge Sivertsen.


  • Adolescence is a developmental stage that marks the transition between childhood and adulthood. At this stage, adolescents experience increased growth in physical, social, emotional, and mental areas of life. An adolescent is an individual between 10 to 19 years old, according to WHO. This period is marked by finding identity or role confusion. A marker of this stage is the development of secondary sexual characteristics. The adolescent stage can be exciting yet confusing. They are curious about the world and are influenced easily by peer pressure. In addition, some are obsessed with exploring the adult world. The majority of adolescents use electronic devices. The major purpose is to have a presence on social media. Being on social media allows them to connect to the world and have a sense of belonging.

  • 9875 adolescents in Norway participated in a study to determine the impact of electronic devices on sleep quality. Electronic devices common among adolescents include mobile phones, laptops, desktops, game consoles, and tabs. Some have access to more than one of these devices, while others did not. Some differences were observed in the type of electronic device users based on gender. It was observed that boys spent more time using gaming consoles. The male gender is also involved in playing online and offline PC games. Girls, however, spent more time on their mobile phones and Mp3 players. Girls prefer to chat on their phones and do other things like watch videos on their PC. 

  • A decline in sleep quality among adolescents has become a global problem. Most of them spend too much time with their gadgets that they sacrifice the time for sleep. The safer option is to prevent this problem because the consequences of sleep deprivation are dire. Adolescents often spend several hours using their gadgets during the daytime and after “lights out.” myAir app may ask questions like, were you using your mobile phone or laptop before falling asleep? This helps us in understanding the genesis of poor sleep quality. Studies have shown that falling asleep while using mobile phones reduces the production of melatonin, which regulates the sleep-wake circadian rhythm. As an adjunct to creating nutrient bars made specifically for you, we can advise against using electronic devices before going to bed.


The research reveals that adolescents spend quality time during the day and at night using electronic devices. The implication was shorter sleep duration, long sleep latency, and sleep deficiency. Thus, there is a negative relationship between sleep quality and the use of electronic devices. The use of electronic devices for four hours after school hours increased the sleep onset latency. Using electronic devices an hour before bedtime also showed a negative impact on the sleep onset latency. 


The use of electronic devices by an adolescent is prevalent in most countries of the world. The advent of social media has made electronic devices, especially mobile phones, an essential commodity for adolescents. Some may judiciously save for years to purchase an electronic device if they do not have one. The most common electronic devices among adolescents are phones, laptops, desktops, and gaming consoles. The female gender is more inclined towards beauty apps, Snapchat, Tiktok, and beauty games. The males, on the other hand, are invested in video games. They could play on a gaming console, laptop, or desktop. 

Sleep is essential in every person’s life, irrespective of the developmental stage. Adolescents are at an age where they experience physical, emotional, hormonal, and mental changes. We cannot overemphasize the importance of good sleep quality. myAir team is dedicated to developing nutrient bars that promote wellness. However, the process of wellness cannot be achieved if sleep is inadequate. We understand the importance of sleep to these young ones. Therefore, we are ready to offer guidance on how to achieve optimum health. One key component in the wellness continuum is awareness. By ensuring we give our clients facts related to the impact of electronic devices on sleep quality, they are one step closer to attaining high-level wellness.

Several studies have shown that adolescents spend several hours on electronic devices. Without conducting a proper study, mere observation reveals that adolescents are always on one device or the other. The advent of smartphones that is easy to carry around has increased the hours adolescents spend using them.  They could spend as much as 8 hours looking at their phone screen. Smartphones are the electronic devices that pose the greatest risk to the sleep health of adolescents. Many young ones use their phones until they fall asleep. There is a lot of captivating content on social media that stimulates their brains to stay awake.

Electronic devices offer so much in the area of entertainment that sleep is cast aside. Some are so engrossed with games that they neglect their schoolwork and sleep. The implication is later bedtime, increased sleep onset latency, and shorter slow-wave sleep. These factors affect daytime functioning. Poor sleep quality is a risk for mood disorders. Adequate sleep is essential for mood stability. The adolescence period is marked with significant hormonal mood changes. Thus, sleep deficiency could put them at risk of anxiety, depression, or behavioral disorders. Parents should be actively involved in monitoring screen time, especially after bedtime. Sleep deficiency may also affect academic performance because the brain is not well rested.


When night comes, the body demands sleep and rest. Night rest is particularly important because it is regenerated. However, most adolescents are caught up with the interesting things they do with their gadgets that they neglect sleep. While in bed, they spend more than thirty minutes using their phones. They may argue that being on their mobile phones or laptop keeps them entertained and relaxed. However, studies have revealed that the effect of sleep during bedtime is anything but relaxing. At sunset, the body begins to release melatonin in preparation for sleeping. A screen emits a frequency that can interact with the brain. This signal interferes with the sleep-wake cycle by suppressing melatonin, thereby increasing alertness. 

One of the activities that get adolescents hooked to electronic devices is social media. Unmonitored time on the internet and social media have a direct relationship with sleep quality. Social media becomes a replacement for sleep because the time allocated for sleep is reduced to increase the time for social media. Another way social media affects sleep is through increasing psychophysiological arousal. There are several contents on the internet that anyone can access: Some of these contents can stimulate the mind and body, thereby increasing the time it takes to fall asleep. Consequently, the adolescence does not get enough sleep and this affects daytime performance. 

The bright light from electronic devices, such as phones, laptops, desktops, and TVs has a direct negative impact on sleep. When you are exposed to too much light in the evening, especially during bedtime, it delays the circadian rhythm. It also stimulates the alert centres of the brain to brain to stay active. Electronic devices often emit electromagnetic radiation. Exposure to radiation about 30 minutes before going to bed has affected sleep. The individual may experience a reduction in rapid eye movement sleep latency. Staring at the screen of a TV, or mobile phone for too long can cause sleep disturbances due to physical discomfort. You may not feel it at that point, but excess screen time eventually leaves you with headaches and sore muscles, especially at the neck. Prolonged sitting playing games may cause back pain. When you eventually fall asleep, you do not wake up rested because very little time is allowed for restorative sleep.


Many are us are guilty of going to bed and still going through Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter before finally falling sleeping. This behavior is on the rise among adolescents. Going through social media feeds may seem like a cool way to relax our minds in preparation. Unknown to many, this practice has significant effects on sleep patterns. Prolonged media use at night is a potent ingredient for arousal. At this time, the body should be unwinding in preparation for sleep. However, looking through social media provides stimulation to the brain. The stimulation fires up your brain and body to stay awake.

The type of content that you see on the media also affects sleep quality. Content may affect you physically, socially, emotionally or prompt you to think. If you see sad news, it may upset your emotional balance, which may increase the time it takes to fall asleep. Engaging in a conversation or reading an intriguing post may stimulate your reasoning centres. A high level of engagement in online activities will significantly delay the sleep-wake circadian rhythm.

Most times, we want to check through the recent gist for five minutes. Unconsciously, we spend an hour or more immersed in the various interesting activities online. It may be simply looking at pictures, following celebrity gist, or chatting. This is one of the reasons why using media devices close to bedtime is not a healthy sleep practice. However, staying up with social media causes shorter sleep duration. This pattern, if not corrected, persists until adulthood. Inadequate sleep puts an individual at risk of depression, anxiety, fatigue, and inability to focus.

Sleep need differs among various age groups. In adolescence, their body is in a stage of exponential growth. The sleep onset latency in adolescence may be longer. Therefore, they may take a longer time to fall asleep. What better way to spend time than spending it on social media? Peer influence may also contribute to a longer period spent on social media. Studies show a causal relationship between media use and sleep duration. Some adolescents may use media to facilitate sleep. Others may use media as an escape from boredom when they fall asleep immediately. This develops into a self-feeding cycle that is hard to break. Recent studies have established a link between the use of media and increased sleep onset latency. Consequently, it negatively affects sleep quality.


Technology has improved lives in various means. However, some ways we use technology do not benefit health. The adolescence stage is when individuals are hooked to one electronic device or the other. Good sleep hygiene is critical to good sleep quality. The use of electronic devices close to bedtime is a preventable method of solving sleep problems. Many adolescents use their phones for a good number of hours during the day. This does not stop them from using their electronic devices until late at night.

The impact of electronic devices on sleep among adolescents has become a global problem. An adolescent requires about eight to nine hours of sleep. The media should be used to educate the public on the amount of time to spend with electronic devices that will not affect sleep quality. Current data suggests that it helps if there is no TV in the bedroom. However, other electronic devices like phones and PCs may be the main culprit in reducing sleep quality. The use of electronic devices at bedtime has a significant impact in reducing sleep hours. Normally, once you enter the bedroom, the body is conditioned to feel sleepy. However, continuous use of electronic devices in the bedroom may reduce sleep-inducing properties. This is because the brain associates the bedroom with the use of electronic devices that stimulates alertness. 

Electronic devices affect sleep in various means. The type and function of the device have to be taken into account when discussing its effect on sleep. Electronic devices that have a screen, such as a TV and PC, emit blue light. This blue light can exert its effect on the brain, inhibiting the production of melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. Subsequently, the sleep circle is interrupted, and the brain is tricked into being active instead of resting. There are four stages of sleep. However, the third stage is responsible for the restorative abilities of the body. When the sleep circle is interrupted, lesser time is spent in the third stage of sleep. Consequently, the individual wakes to feel “not rested” or “irritable.” Finally, denying yourself sleep because you want to maintain your online reputation or follow the latest trends is a perfect way of destroying your health. Lack of sleep has various effects on physical, mental, social wellbeing. Avoid the use of electronic devices during bedtime to cultivate good sleep hygiene practices.

Reference and Footnotes:

Original publication: Sleep and use of electronic devices in adolescence: results from a large population-based study

By Mari Hysing, Ståle Pallesen, Kjell Morten Stormark, Reidar Jakobsen, Astri J Lundervold, and Børge Sivertsen.

Published in 2012 by BMJ

Footnote: No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.


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