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Bedtime Electronic Media Use and Sleep in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Mazurek, Micah O., PhD*; Engelhardt, Christopher R., PhD*,†; Hilgard, Joseph, PhD; Sohl, Kristin, MD§

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: September 2016 - Volume 37 - Issue 7 - p 525–531
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000314
Original Articles
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Objectives: The purpose of this study was to better understand the use of screen-based media at bedtime among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study specifically examined whether the presence of media devices in the child's bedroom, the use of media as part of the bedtime routine, and exposure to media with violent content just before bedtime were associated with sleep difficulties.

Methods: Parents of 101 children with ASD completed questionnaires assessing their children's sleep habits, bedroom media access (including television, video game devices, and computers), and patterns of nighttime media use (including timing of media exposure and violent media content).

Results: Children with ASD who used media as part of the bedtime routine showed significantly greater sleep onset latency than those who did not (39.8 vs 16.0 minutes). Similarly, children who were exposed to media with violent content within the 30-minute period before bedtime experienced significantly greater sleep onset delays and shorter overall sleep duration. In contrast, the mere presence of bedroom media was not associated with either sleep onset latency or sleep duration.

Conclusion: Overall, these findings indicate that incorporating television and video games into the bedtime routine is associated with sleep onset difficulties among children with ASD. Exposure to violent media before bed is also associated with poor sleep. Families of children with ASD should be encouraged to regulate and monitor the timing and content of television and video game use, whether or not such devices are physically present in the child's bedroom.

*Department of Health Psychology, Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO;

Data Technologies, CARFAX, Inc., Columbia, MO;

University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg Public Policy Center, Philadelphia, PA;

§Department of Child Health, Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO.

Address for reprints: Micah O. Mazurek, PhD, Department of Health Psychology, Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Missouri, Columbia, 205 Portland St, Columbia, MO 65211; e-mail: mazurekm@missouri.edu.

This project was supported by Autism Speaks and cooperative agreement UA3 MC11054 through the US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Research Program to the Massachusetts General Hospital. This work was conducted through the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Received December 31, 2015

Accepted April 14, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.