Objective: Television and computer game consumption are a powerful influence in the lives of most children. Previous evidence has supported the notion that media exposure could impair a variety of behavioral characteristics. Excessive television viewing and computer game playing have been associated with many psychiatric symptoms, especially emotional and behavioral symptoms, somatic complaints, attention problems such as hyperactivity, and family interaction problems. Nevertheless, there is insufficient knowledge about the relationship between singular excessive media consumption on sleep patterns and linked implications on children. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of singular excessive television and computer game consumption on sleep patterns and memory performance of children.
Methods: Eleven school-aged children were recruited for this polysomnographic study. Children were exposed to voluntary excessive television and computer game consumption. In the subsequent night, polysomnographic measurements were conducted to measure sleep-architecture and sleep-continuity parameters. In addition, a visual and verbal memory test was conducted before media stimulation and after the subsequent sleeping period to determine visuospatial and verbal memory performance.
Results: Only computer game playing resulted in significant reduced amounts of slow-wave sleep as well as significant declines in verbal memory performance. Prolonged sleep-onset latency and more stage 2 sleep were also detected after previous computer game consumption. No effects on rapid eye movement sleep were observed. Television viewing reduced sleep efficiency significantly but did not affect sleep patterns.
Conclusions: The results suggest that television and computer game exposure affect children's sleep and deteriorate verbal cognitive performance, which supports the hypothesis of the negative influence of media consumption on children's sleep, learning, and memory.