Insomnia among children almost doubles in seven years

Insomnia among children has almost doubled in seven years, with screentime blamed for the rise.

Fuelled by factors including excessive use of social media before bedtime, thousands of young people in England are being admitted to hospital for sleep disorders, according to an analysis of NHS Digital data.

The number of admissions of under-16s has almost doubled from 6,549 in 2012-13 to 11,313 in 2018-19, the figures reveal. Most were for sleep apnoea, a serious disorder causing breathing to be interrupted at night.

Experts have pointed to large amounts of screentime, rising obesity levels and a mental health crisis among adolescents as contributors to increasing difficulties sleeping among the country’s youth.

Vicki Dawson, the founder of the NHS Doncaster-funded Children’s Sleep Charity, said there was “a real lack of understanding around the impact that screens can have on sleep”.

More than half of children reported sleeping with their mobile phone beside their bed, according to a Childwise survey earlier this year.

Ms Dawson added: “Unfortunately sleep is not on the public health agenda despite the huge impact it has on all areas of wellbeing, and when it goes wrong there aren’t specialist services for families to access.”

Rachael Taylor, the founder of The Sleep Sanctuary, a children’s sleep consultancy, said the reliance on technology among teenagers and younger children was a worrying trend.

“The blue light emitted from phone, tablet, computer and TV screens disrupts natural melatonin production, which inhibits sleep,” she said.

 “I’m increasingly seeing more and more young children sent to bed with a screen to help them fall asleep, when it is in fact disrupting their sleep and making falling asleep more difficult.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “These figures show that more must be done to limit the dangerous drivers of poor health, including the increasing use of social media and the rising levels of childhood obesity.

“Our NHS Long Term Plan sets out ambitious action to transform care for children, supported by record investment, but while the NHS is playing its part, other industries must step up to protect our young people’s health.”

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