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Electronic Device Use Linked to Insomnia for Adolescents

The relationship between hours of electronic device use and psychological distress was not mediated by insomnia.

As use of electronic devices continues to grow, new research shows the relationship between the amount of time spent on these devices, psychological distress, and insomnia.

A team, led by Maysoun H. Atoum, Department of Community and Mental Health Nursing, Faculty of Nursing, The Hashemite University, examined the relationships between electronic device use and the outcomes of insomnia and psychological distress with insomnia and psychological as mediators.

Growing Concern for Device Usage

Despite computers, smartphones, and tablets becoming necessities in life, particularly for the younger generations, it is difficult to define the relationships between electronic device use, insomnia, and psychological distress.

“Given the risk of excessive e-device use, experts have suggested controlling e-devices for adolescents for two hours per day,” the authors wrote. “Even the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommends limiting e-derives use to no more than one hour or less per day.”

While electronic devices are necessary for school and social functions, sleep quality and duration is also crucial for adolescents for learning ability, memory processes, emotional regulation, and related behaviors.

The Study

In the correlation study, the investigators examined cross-sectional data on hours of electronic device use, insomnia, and psychological distress for 485 randomly selected adolescents in Jordan using a multiple-stage cluster random sampling technique.

The target study participants were aged 15-17 years from a pair of secondary schools in Jordan.

Overall, 235 male students and 250 female students were included in the sample.

The investigators collected data from the participants during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Sleep related measures included the average of hours slept per day, including naps, the perception of the adequacy of the sleep, and insomnia.

The Connection

Overall, the team found the hours of electronic device use was a predicted factor for psychological distress and the mediation analysis showed the relationship between these hours and insomnia was mediated by psychological distress scores (indirect effect size = .0462; 95% CI, .0095-.0837).

The study also shows excessive use of electronic devices can provoke adverse psychological problems, similar to what has been found in previous studies. For example, adolescents that use electronic devices more for mood modification as the brain’s reward system release endorphins and dopamine that can contribute to addiction and symptoms of psychological disorders and cause impulsivity.

On the other hand, the relationship between hours of electronic device use and psychological distress was not mediated by insomnia (indirect effect size = .0247; 95% CI, -.0063 to .0569).

“The hours of e-devices use may exert its effect on insomnia through psychological distress, which may lead to insomnia,” the authors wrote. “This data does not support the hypothesis that insomnia may mediate the relationship between e-devices use and psychological distress.”

The investigators did say more research is needed and other stakeholders should be involved.

“The study supports policymakers and a collaborative team of parents, educators, and health professionals to prevent the harmful effects of excessive e-devices,” the authors wrote.

The study, “The psychological distress mediates the relationship between electronic devices use and insomnia in adolescents,” was published online in the Electronic Journal of General Medicine.