Electronic media use and sleep in children and adolescents in western countries: a systematic review

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Background: Sleep is essential for child and adolescent health and well-being. There is an increasing interest in whether electronic media use affects children and young adolescents’ sleep. Prior reviews have focused on a school-aged population. Moreover, it is crucial that research continuously addresses the processes of technology and media use and the implication on sleep. This systematic review examines the evidence of electronic media use related to sleep among 0–15-year-olds. Methods: Searches were carried out in four databases (CINAHL, Web of Science, EMBASE, and Medline). Inclusion criteria included age ≤ 15 years, and intervention, cohort, or cross-sectional studies from western countries. Methodological quality was rated using the Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies by two independent reviewers. Data was extracted using a standardized data extraction form. Synthesis was done by summarizing results across studies by age groups of 0–5, 6–12, and 13–15 years within four sleep domains: Bedtime and sleep onset; Sleep quality; Sleep duration; Daytime tiredness. Results: The search identified 10,719 unique studies, of which 109 fulfilled inclusion and exclusion criteria and were assessed for methodological quality. In total, 49 studies were included in the review. The study designs were randomized controlled trials (n = 3), quasi-experimental studies (n = 2), prospective cohort studies (n = 15), and cross-sectional studies (n = 29). Evidence for an association between electronic media use and sleep duration was identified, with stronger evidence for 6–15-years-olds than 0–5-year-olds. The evidence for a relationship between electronic media use and other sleep outcomes was more inconclusive. However, for 6–12-year-old children, there was evidence for associations of electronic media use with delayed bedtime and poor sleep quality. For 13–15-year-olds, there was evidence for associations between screen time and problems falling asleep, and between social media use and poor sleep quality. Conclusions: Overall, electronic media use was generally associated with shorter sleep duration in children and adolescents. Studies with stronger research design and of higher quality are needed to draw solid conclusions about electronic media’s impact on other sleep outcomes. Public awareness and interventions could be promoted about the potential negative impact on children’s sleep of electronic media devices that are used excessively and close to bedtime.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1598
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 30. Sept 2021


  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronics
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders


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