After Hours

Electronic gadgets induce junk sleep

Junk sleepA recent survey by The Sleep Council concludes that "British teenagers are damaging their health by not getting enough sleep, because they are distracted by electronic gadgets in their bedrooms." Check out the Reuters' story: "'Junk sleep' damaging U.K. teenagers' health."

What exactly is junk sleep? According to Dr. Chris Idzikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre:

"What we are seeing is the emergence of junk sleep -- that is, sleep that is of neither the length nor quality that it should be in order to feed the brain with the rest it needs to perform properly at school."

Here are some of the survey stats:

  • Thirty percent of the 1,000 kids surveyed (ages 12-16) managed to sleep four to seven hours a night, as opposed to the recommended eight or nine hours
  • Nearly all the teenagers in the survey had a phone, music system, or TV in their bedroom, with around two-thirds possessing all three
  • Almost a quarter said they fell asleep more than once a week while watching TV, listening to music, or using other electronic gadgets
  • Approximately one in five of the teenage boys said the quality of their sleep had been affected by leaving their TV or computer on
  • Forty percent of kids surveyed felt tired each day, with girls aged 15 to 16 faring the worst
  • Eleven percent said they were bothered by the lack or quality of sleep

Of course, the golden rule about parenting is that we're suppose to set good examples for our children vs. the hypocritical "do as I say and not as I do." It would be interesting to find out how many of the kids' parents in this study get adequate rest and how many gadgets they own for potential night-time distraction.

Do you "unplug" at night, or do electronic gadgets (computer, TV, iPod, phone, gaming system, etc.) keep you from getting the recommended amount of sleep?


Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.


Does anyone get enough sleep? If I'm not in front of the computer at night, I usually end up sitting in front of the tv until well after I really need to go to bed. My wife and I both seem to be addicted to our electronic gadgets these days. At least we've kept that stuff out of our bedroom, so when we decide to finally go to bed, we actually go to sleep, rather than watch some more tv in bed. The only electronics in there is the alarm clock, which seems to disturb my sleep a lot more than I want it to.


I am the same way 100%. Our bedroom has a TV, but we never use it because it doesn't have the same "feel" to watch as the one in the living room. Plus, since I stay up until 12:30 or 1am every weeknight, if I actually push myself and attempt to go to bed at say, 10pm, I will end up lying there tossing and turning for hours anyway.

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

Brian, I also have intentionally kept the TV out of my bedroom -- and I yanked my son's TV out of his room when I busted him watching WWE after his set bedtime! (However, I didn't even think about his Nintendo DS, Gameboy, or iPod... hmmmm....) As far as my alarm clock, that old thing just tells the time these days. My cell phone is a much more reliable alarm clock. And yes, it always goes off way too early!


My wife and I have already decided that when we get around to having kids that they're not going to have computers or televisions in their rooms. Anything portable would most likely be kept in there, since that will be where their belongings will be kept, at least until those portable electronics get used when they're not supposed to. Cell phones seem to make pretty good alarm clocks, provided you wake up before they stop making noise. It's a good thing my wife hears it, because I do my best to ignore it every morning. :)

Editor's Picks