“If you want your kids to sleep better and live a healthier lifestyle, get the technology out of the bedroom,” says Canadian public health professor Paul Veugelers. I guess he would be talking to the converted on this blog, but at least it is reinforcement if you get into an argument about it.

By “healthier lifestyle” Dr Veugelers basically means “not getting fat”. He led a study of nearly 3,400 Grade 5 students in the province of Alberta which showed that as little as one hour of additional sleep decreased the odds of being overweight or obese by around 30 per cent. The study also confirmed a link between getting less sleep and having electronic gadgets in the bedroom.

Half of the students had a TV, DVD player or video game console in their bedroom, 21 per cent had a computer and 17 per cent had a cellphone. Five per cent of students had all three types of devices.

Some 57 per cent of students reported using electronics after they were supposed to be asleep, with watching TV and movies being the most popular activity. Twenty-seven per cent of students engaged in three or more activities after bedtime.

Researchers found that students with access to one electronic device were 1.47 times as likely to be overweight as kids with no devices in the bedroom. That increased to 2.57 times for kids with three devices, with similar results reported among obese children.

I suppose a youngster who stayed awake doing something really old-fashioned like reading a book in bed would be at the same risk — although there may be a better chance that he is improving his mind.

More sleep also led to significantly more physical activity and better diet choices, researchers found.

It seems that children today are getting less sleep than previous generations — two-thirds are not getting the recommended amount — and this can affect their schoolwork, mood and general health adversely.

I think that goes for adults too.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet