Too much online time can affect sleep patterns

Young people are spending more time playing and socialising online than watching television programmes, according to an annual survey tracking children’s media behaviour in the UK. kidsonphones

It showed that children go online to watch videos, listen to music, play games and research their homework while older children use it for social networking, particularly among girls.

Staff at research agency Childwise described it as a ‘landmark change’.

Among those watching TV, the Netflix on-demand service was more popular than any conventional television channel. There was also a surge in children’s ownership of tablet computers, up by 50% compared with last year.

For the first time, tablet computers have overtaken other types of computer, such as laptops or desktops.

The most common way of accessing the internet is the mobile phone, which is described as ‘near universal’ among young people.

But particularly among younger children, there has been a sharp rise in access to tablet computers, now owned by 67% of youngsters, with the iPad by far the most widespread.

The annual media monitoring report, based on a sample of more than 2,000 five to 16-year-olds, has been following children’s viewing behaviour since the mid-1990s.

This year’s findings from Childwise are being claimed as a tipping point with children switching from conventional television to spending time online.

The average time spent online is now three hours per day, compared with 2.1 hours watching television.

There is a worry that the use of electronic devices, particularly at night, could severely disrupt sleep patterns and this would, in turn, have an adverse affect on children and their attention spans at school.

US researcher Prof Charles Czeisler told the BBC recently that ‘light emitted by most e-readers is shining directly into the eyes of the reader’, disrupting their sleep pattern. And disrupting sleep in turn affected health.

Sleep deficiency has been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes, and cancer. Thus, the melatonin suppression that we saw in this study among participants when they were reading from the light-emitting e-reader concerns us,” he said.

Our bodies are kept in tune with the rhythm of day and night by an internal body clock, which uses light to tell the time.

But blue light, the wavelength common in smartphones, tablets and LED lighting, is able to disrupt the body clock. Blue light in the evening can slow or prevent the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

However, a hypnotherapist can create a programme of personalised treatment that identifies the client’s sleeping patterns and teaches self-management techniques which make a big difference not just to how long they sleep but the quality of sleep they enjoy.

The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) is a not-for-profit organisation with a large directory of highly-qualified therapists across the UK many of whom found that insomniacs generally respond well to hypnotherapy.

Research shows that hypnosis combined with cognitive behavioural therapy is the most effective treatment for insomnia.

Our body clock is a daily cycle which drives the regular rise and fall of certain genes as well as the ebb and flow of our cognitive performance, our metabolism and so on. But, for much of our lives – and especially in adolescence, there is a mismatch between this rhythm and the typical working day.

According to some estimates, 90% of people with sleeping problems like insomnia also have another health condition.

The NCH says that people, who have experienced side effects of anxiety such as insomnia, find that they are sleeping much better after hypnotherapy and as a result are able to work more effectively.

“It is as if hypnotherapy unlocks the potential you have to break free of negative thought patterns, and to react more positively and more confidently to situations in your life that may have previously made you anxious.”

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