They found 60 percent of 11-year-olds use technology in the hour before bed. Picture: AP

London - Children as young as six are losing hours of sleep after using electronic gadgets before bed.

More than a third of six-year-olds are allowed to sit in front of tablets, laptops and smartphones in the hour before bedtime, a study has found.

Children who do this get 20 minutes less sleep a night on average than those who avoid electronic devices. That adds up to more than two hours’ lost sleep a week, or 121 hours in a year.

A study led by the University of Sheffield questioned 1 000 British parents with children aged six to 11 about their sleep habits. 

They found 60 percent of 11-year-olds use technology in the hour before bed. This is concerning because smartphones and tablets produce blue light, which is believed to disrupt important signals that tell the body it is dark and time to go to sleep, and to suppress the sleep hormone melatonin.

Lead author Dr Anna Weighall, a development cognitive psychologist from the University of Sheffield, who conducted the research, said: "Good-quality sleep is essential for a child’s development, and a lack of sleep can have a very real impact on their day-to-day lives, as well as having long-term health implications.

"Technology can benefit our lives in so many ways, but parents need to be aware of the negative impact it can have on children when it comes to sleep. The presence of tablets and phones in a child’s bedroom, even if they are switched off, can leave them feeling unsettled which will have an effect on their sleeping patterns."

The research, done with bed manufacturer Silentnight, found 40 percent of parents let their six-year-olds use technology in the hour before bedtime, with one in six "often" permitting this.

These parents were asked for the average bedtimes of their children and when they woke up, as were those who banned all electronic devices in the hour before bedtime.

Those children who used phones, laptops and tablets before bed at age six got 20 minutes less sleep than those who did not, on average. They also got less sleep if they were allowed to take electronic devices into their rooms.

Daily Mail