Televisions, computers, and other electronic devices in kids’ bedrooms at night are linked to worse lifestyle habits, compared with children who do not have these electronics in their bedrooms, according to researchers from the University of Alberta in a new study published in Pediatric Obesity.

Survey results of Alberta fifth graders revealed that an extra hour of sleep per night lowered the chance of being overweight by 28% and obese by 30% and kids who sleep with TVs, computers, cellphones, and video games in their bedrooms have a much higher chance of being overweight or obese.

A study published in July of this year said that children who watch too much TV can end up with larger waistlines than those who do not spend a lot of time in front of the television

Co-author of the study, Paul Veugelers, professor in the School of Public Health, Canada Research Chair in Population Health and Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions Health Scholar, said: “If you want your kids to sleep better and live a healthier lifestyle, get the technology out of the bedroom.”

He said that the new evidence is the first of its kind to link sleep, diet, and physical activity in children.

Using the REAL Kids Alberta survey, close to 3,400 fifth grade students were questioned about their bedtime sleep practices and whether they used electronics before bed.

Fifty percent of the children said they had either a television, DVD player, or video game in their rooms, while twenty one percent reported having a computer and seventeen percent claimed they had cellphones. Of all of these students, five percent reported having all three kinds of the electronics.

Not surprisingly, fifty seven percent of the children said they would use the devices in their rooms after they were supposed to already be sleeping – most of them said they would watch movies or television in bed. In addition, twenty seven percent of the fifth graders reported taking part in 3 or more of these past times after they should have been sleeping.

The experts determined that the children who were able to use one electronic device at bedtime were 1.47 times more likely to be overweight than those with no access to the devices. When children had 3 or more electronic devices in their bedroom the likelihood of being obese increased to 2.57.

According to the report, greater amounts of sleep were clearly associated with healthier diet choices and more physical activity among children.

Christina Fung, co-author of the study, said that two-thirds of kids in today’s society are not getting adequate amounts of sleep or as much as earlier generations. This is noteworthy because sleep plays a major part in academics, mood, and health outcomes.

She concluded: “It’s important to teach these children at an earlier age and teach them healthy habits when they are younger.”

Written by Christine Kearney