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Lack of Sleep Plus Extra Screen Time Leads to Impulsivity in Kids

New Canadian research suggests that children and youth who do not sleep enough and who use screens more than recommended are more likely to act impulsively and make poorer decisions.

The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, come from the globally recognized Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) in Ottawa.

“Impulsive behavior is associated with numerous mental health and addiction problems, including eating disorders, behavioral addictions and substance abuse,” said Dr. Michelle Guerrero, lead author and postdoctoral fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the University of Ottawa.

“This study shows the importance of especially paying attention to sleep and recreational screen time, and reinforces the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth.”

The 24-Hour Movement recommendations, are the first evidence-based guidelines to address the whole day. Experts discovered kids are inactive and may be losing sleep over it. Moreover, they aren’t moving enough to be tired, and they may also be too tired to move. For optimal health benefits, children and youth should achieve high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behavior, and sufficient sleep each day.

Emerging evidence shows the need for a new movement paradigm that emphasizes the integration of all movement behaviors occurring over a whole day, shifting the focus from the individual components to emphasize the whole. The new guidelines encourage children and youth to “Sweat, Step, Sleep and Sit” the right amounts for a healthy 24 hours.

Now, the new study confirms that when kids follow these recommendations, they are more likely to make better decisions and act less rashly than those who do not meet the guidelines, explains Guerrero.

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth recommend:

    • 9-11 hours of sleep a night
    • no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time a day

The new paper, “24-Hour Movement Behaviors and Impulsivity,” analyzed data over a 10-year period for 4,524 children from a large longitudinal population study called the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. In addition to sleep and screen time, the ABCD Study also captures data related to physical activity.

Physical activity is a third pillar of the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, which recommend children and youth receive at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

The ABCD Study allowed Guerrero and her team to look at the three pillars of the movement guidelines against eight measures of impulsivity.

The criteria include one’s tendency to seek out thrilling experiences, to set desired goals, to respond sensitively to rewarding or unpleasant stimuli, and to act rashly in negative and positive moods.

The study results suggest that meeting all three pillars of the movement guidelines was associated with more favorable outcomes on five of the eight dimensions.

Guerrero and her team say that studies using feedback devices to measure the movement behaviors in future research will help further our understanding of how physical activity, screen time, and sleep relate to children’s impulsivity.

Source: University of Ottawa

Lack of Sleep Plus Extra Screen Time Leads to Impulsivity in Kids

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2019). Lack of Sleep Plus Extra Screen Time Leads to Impulsivity in Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Aug 2019 (Originally: 30 Aug 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 30 Aug 2019
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