Media technology in children’s bedrooms such as TVs and computers can disrupt their sleep patterns, according to a study published in the journal BMC Public Health.

Researchers from Helsinki, Finland, conducted the first long-term study to find out whether electronic media use and electronic media presence in a child’s bedroom predicted or changed sleep habits.

Participants in the study analyzed schoolchildren aged 10 and 11 years old from 27 schools across the Scandinavian country.

Baseline measurements for the study began in 2006, where children were asked to complete a questionnaire about their health behaviors. The children were asked to do the survey again 18 months later.

The children were also asked about their bedtimes and wake-up times on school days and at weekends.

Television viewing and computer habits were assessed to find out how many hours in the day the children watched television, videos or DVDs, and played computer games.

The study also enquired whether children had a television, computer or game console in their bedroom.

Children who had a TV or computer in their bedroom went to bed later on school days and at the weekend, meaning they were getting less sleep.

Results also revealed that when analyzing girls and boys individually, boys who had a computer or TV in their bedroom went to bed later compared with the girls.

The study authors say of the results:

Our main findings were that computer use and television viewing predicted shorter sleep duration and later bedtimes. The more children used a computer or watched a TV, the greater was the decrease in sleep duration and the delay in bedtime 18 months later.

A media presence in the bedroom was also related to irregular sleep habits: a television and a computer in the bedroom among boys, and a television in the bedroom among girls.”

The study authors add that since no other long-term studies exist in this research area, the results show new information that associates computer and television use with sleep habits 18 months later.

The authors say parents, teachers and healthcare providers should be aware that television viewing and computer use may have an adverse impact on children’s sleep.

Teija Nuutinen of the Folkhälsan Research Center and the Department of Public Health at the University of Helsinki, says:

Children need extra sleep as they go through puberty, but our study finds that TV and computer use affect the sleep of children. This is especially true during the week and may be impacting their school work as well as their development.

Media viewing habits should be considered for kids who are tired and struggling to concentrate, or who have behavior problems caused by lack of sleep.”