Screen Time in the Evening Makes Sleep More Difficult for All Children-Especially Boys with Autism

It is well established in the research literature that exposure to screen-based media in the hours leading up to bedtime reduces quantity and quality of sleep for children and adults.

A study conducted at the University of Missouri (Engelhardt, Mazurek, & Sohl, 2013) shows that this negative effect is even more pronounced for boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These researchers found that having access to television screens, computers or video games is directly linked to less sleep among boys with ASD.

The research team looked at the relationship between media use and sleep for boys with autism, typically developing boys, and boys with ADHD. The parents of all groups of boys were surveyed about their daily media use, access to screens in the bedroom, and the average hours of sleep they had each night. They found a clear relationship between overall media use and a decreased amount of sleep hours experienced by the boys with autism. They also found that average video game exposure time also contributed to decreased sleep. While they found negative impacts of screen time and video game exposure for all children in the study, the results were most pronounced for boys on the autism spectrum.

If you have followed my work and writings you know that I am a proponent of reducing screen time exposure for all children, especially in the evening hours. These research findings add to the evidence suggesting that parents need to put limits on the amount of engagement children are having with screen-based media each day, especially before bedtime. This is especially the case for children who struggle with sleep issues. Sleep problems are common among children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, and there are many underlying factors involved. However, reducing exposure to screen-based media at night is a simple step parents can take to improve these issues.


Engelhardt, C.R., Mazurek, M.O., & Sohl, K. (2013). Media use and sleep among boys with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or typical development. Pediatrics, 132(6), 1081-1089.

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