Sarah has covered news topics for digital and print publications. She holds a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nevada.
Teeth grinding while asleep, known as sleep bruxism, may affect up to 40% of children worldwide. A research group out of Medellín, Columbia studied the relationship between behaviors like screen time and sugar consumption and sleep bruxism in children.
They found that as screen time and sugar consumption increased, the frequency of bruxism increased.
Researchers analyzed data from 440 children, ages four to eight, using parent-completed questionnaires about their child’s sleep behaviors and dietary habits. Parents also logged their child’s average hourly weekly screen time with electronic devices.
The study data demonstrated that as the amount of screen time and consumption of added sugar increased, so did the frequency of sleep bruxism among the study participants.
Researchers point to interference in dopamine neurotransmission to explain the findings of this study — meaning that the brain may react differently to increased added sugar consumption and activities that require screen time.
“Excessive added sugar consumption and screen time are common behaviors today in children,” noted the researchers. As these increase and sleep and behavior disorders also increase, which have been associated with sleep bruxism, researchers aimed to evaluate the association between sleep bruxism and these increased behaviors in children.
“These correlations could lead to the possibility of considering sleep bruxism as an indicator of alterations in living habits (specifically dietary and the use of screen time) that could affect sleep quality, and cognitive and behavior performance,” researchers say.
While limitations of the study require further research to determine causality or sleep bruxism diagnosis, the study’s findings can help inform the design of public policies and household behaviors to support healthy dietary and screen time habits.
Limiting screen time in the hours before bed can allow the body’s release of melatonin to take place more effectively, a reaction that is suppressed when exposed to the blue light of an electronic screen. Maintaining a healthy diet can help regulate bodily functions that foster quality sleep.