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Seeing a teenager without a mobile phones these days is a rare occurrence. Indeed, they tend to be more tech savvy, with far fancier smartphones than we can even hope to have. But what if our children are using these mobile phones so much that it’s actually starting to detrimentally effect both their sleep and mental health?

A recent study of 1,001 Australian high school students, who were aged between 13 and 16, found that those teenagers who were involved in late-night calls or late-night texting from the comfort of their beds would have a poorer quality sleep. When they continued to get a poor night’s sleep, it was found that there was a link to their mental health suffering. This included depressed moods, a diminished coping ability and a poor self-esteem.

Mobile phoneThe research, which was run by Lynette Vernon of Murdoch University in Perth, is now being advised as a reason for parents to implement curfews on phone usage – especially in the bedroom. This should be a physical boundary, meaning that mobiles phones shouldn’t be allowed in the bedroom at all at night to avoid temptation. This means if phones are used as alarm clocks, they should instead be swapped for traditional alarm clocks.

The study itself took place over four years when the teenagers were in high school, and as the study went on, it was found that those teenagers with unrestricted access to their mobile phones saw a steady decrease in their sleep and mental health.

The problem is, that these days, most teenagers have a phone. It’s seen as a normal thing to give your children. Indeed, international research has found that an astonishing 80% of young people have access to a mobile phone.

Lead researcher, Vernon, is a former high school teacher herself, and was inspired to conduct the research after she noticed a decline in her pupils after mobile phones became popular. Worried about the unrestricted access teenagers had to phones 24/7, she wanted to research whether this new social obsession has led to teenagers losing out on sleep – as sleep is vitally important for a young person’s development.

If you’re finding that your teenager is becoming increasingly grumpy, moody or irritable, then don’t instantly fob it off as hormones. It’s more than likely that your teen is actually suffering from sleep loss – something that would make the best of us grumpy!

The study showed that Year 8 pupils would report high levels of late-night texting, a year later they reported higher levels of depression and low self-esteem. Yet mobile phone usage only got more problematic as they got older, with those who reported using their phone late at night escalating to texting throughout the night. With some admitting to texts well past 3am. Again, these teens reported more mental health issues and fatigue.

Teenagers need 10 hours of good quality sleep a night in order for them to develop. You learn a lot of information as a young adult during education and without the necessary sleep their brains won’t have enough time to commit all this information to memory, meaning their grades can suffer. But how do you stop this worrying trend?

Imposing restrictions on phones could well help this out, but you should also look at other reasons why your child isn’t sleeping well. Things like school stress, an uncomfortable mattress and even video game obsessions can all lead to missed sleep. Aim to find the root of the problem and work from there.

Mattress issues are the most common and the most easily fixed, as an uncomfortable bed can make it hard to sleep – and may lead to spending time on their phone.  Instead regularly inspect all your family’s mattresses to ensure everyone is getting the best night sleep they can. 

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