Greater screen time linked to insomnia, depressive symptoms among adolescents

Preliminary results from a new study indicate that greater amounts of daily screen time are associated with more insomnia symptoms and shorter sleep duration among adolescents.

Results show that for social messaging, web surfing and TV/movie watching, insomnia symptoms and sleep duration fully explained the association between screen-based activities and 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." said postdoctoral researcher Xian Stella Li, PhD, who conducted the analyses with collaborators at Stony Brook University (Lauren Hale, PhD), Penn State University (Orfeu Buxton, PhD, Soomi Lee, PhD, and Anne-Marie Chang, PhD), and University of Wisconsin-Madison (Lawrence Berger, PhD).

"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." concluded principal investigator Lauren Hale, PhD, Professor of Family, Population, and Preventive Medicine and core faculty in the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook Medicine. She added, "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 study included data from 2,865 adolescents in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study's teen survey. Participants had a mean age of 15.63 years, and 51 percent were male. Surveys included sleep characteristics: two insomnia symptoms (problems falling asleep, problems staying asleep), habitual weeknight sleep duration; and depressive symptoms. Teens reported the typical daily time spent (hours) on four screen-based activities (social messaging, web surfing, TV/movies, and gaming).

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