JOURNAL ARTICLE

[Bedtime, television and computer habits of primary school children in Germany]

E Heins, C Seitz, J Schüz, A M Toschke, K Harth, S Letzel, E Böhler
Das Gesundheitswesen 2007, 69 (3): 151-7
17440845

BACKGROUND: Pediatricians recommend daily sleep of at least ten hours for children aged 9 and 10 years. Sufficient sleep is necessary for maintaining the body's homeostasis, as well as for fixing memories and learning. Lack of sleep in children has been associated with a diminished school performance, reduced attention span, and obesity. Adulthood is influenced by childhood lifestyle habits. Data from 4th graders in 34 schools in Mainz and its surroundings were analysed in order to determine negative health lifestyle factors in German primary school children, such as lack of sleep and increased leisure time spent watching television and computer gaming.

METHODS: Data from a cross-sectional study regarding cellular phone use in fourth-graders in Mainz were used for this analysis. Bedtime, television and computer use habits, as well as other factors were explored. A total of 1933 children from 34 schools participated by answering a questionnaire in the 2002-2003 school year (participation rate: 88%). Complete data for the secondary analysis were available from 1889 students (51% male, median age 10 years).

RESULTS: Overall, 28% of the children reported going to bed after 9 pm on week nights, 16% reported watching television more than three hours daily, and 11% played computer or video games more than three hours daily. In the adjusted binary logistic regression model, being older, male, having older siblings, watching television (OR 1.82, 95% CI 1.28-2.61) and playing computer games (OR 3.23; 95% CI 2.24-4.67) for more than three hours daily, owning a mobile phone, and being in a school in the city were associated with going to bed after 9 pm.

CONCLUSION: Every fourth child does not obtain a sleep duration of 10 hours, under the assumption that primary schoolchildren need to be awake at 7 am on weekdays. Lifestyle factors that may negatively influence a child's development determine their actual and future habits. Sufficient sleep and less television and computer leisure times should be assertively emphasized to parents and carers of primary school students, in order to prevent the negative consequences of lack of sleep, such as diminished school performance. Developing sex-specific prevention programs, which take into account the complex lifestyles and habits of primary schoolchildren, seems to be relevant.

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