What Does It Mean?
Smith stated in a release that “These results indicate that the popularity and accessibility of touchscreen devices has led to high levels of usage by babies and toddlers, and this is associated with reduced sleep.”
Moving forward, researchers hope to understand the mechanics behind this link, and to develop more objective measures of sleep. As of right now, the research certainly raises awareness of the fact that babies are using these technological devices, but it does little to explain the real reasons behind the repeated correlations.
Other Potential Factors?
Michael Gradisar, a psychologist at Flinders University not involved with the study, says, “There are also other factors that can affect a young child’s sleep–such as napping, evening stimulation (noise, artificial lighting) – that were not considered in the study’s prediction of infants’ nighttime sleep. If they were, the contribution of touchscreen use to nighttime sleep might be less than anticipated.”
Gradisar’s point about the use of artificial lighting is a good one. Studies in the past have shown that light from electronic devices may interrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Therefore, this COULD explain why kids who use touchscreens are having a harder time falling asleep and why they’re getting less sleep overall, but more research is needed to determine that for sure.