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Association between internet use and sleep problems in adolescents/Ergenlerde internet kullanimi ile uyku problemleri arasindaki iliski.


Sleep has an important role in humans' lives not only for general health but also for mental health and quality of life. Because of the ongoing growth of body systems, the importance of sleep is even much greater for children and adolescents. Adolescents' sleep habits vary with age, lifestyle issues and sociocultural influences. Sleep problems are commonly reported in adolescents with an estimated prevalence between 27% and 40% (1,2,3,4). Among the reported problems, difficulties in falling asleep and daytime sleepiness appear to be more prominent (1,5,6,7). Sleep problems in adolescence have been suggested to impair multiple domains of functioning including school, social and family functioning (26,7,8,9).

The computer and the internet are becoming major influences in adolescents' lives. Because of the dramatic increase in internet use among adolescents in recent years, some warning voices have been raised on the possible negative impacts of excessive internet use on mental health (10,11,12). The most important concern appears to be the risk of "internet addiction". Internet addiction may be defined as internet use which is excessive, out of control, and severely disrupting individuals' lives (13,14,15). National Sleep Foundation's 2006 Sleep in America Poll have reported that almost one-third of U.S. adolescents had a computer and one-fifth of them had internet access in their bedroom (16). Therefore, the possible association between internet use and sleep habits may not be suprising. A handful of recent studies have found a relationship between excessive computer and internet use and sleep problems in adolescents (17,18,19,20).

In Turkey, the internet was used for the first time in 1993. Similar to the Western countries' rates, the prevalence of internet use markedly increased in Turkey, from 3.1% in 2000 to 22.5% by 2007 (21,22). Canbaz et al. (15) reported the prevalence of internet use as 80% in their sample of Turkish adolescents. Despite the available research in the US and Europe, the association between internet use and sleep problems in adolescents has not been studied comprehensively in non-Western countries. This community-based study aims to investigate the association between internet use and sleep problems in a sample of Turkish adolescents.



Five high schools were chosen from Antakya, Hatay: Two general government high schools, two Anatolian high schools where English is taught as a foreign language, and a vocational high school. All of the schools in our sample may be broadly classified as representing the middle-class socioeconomic status.

Study Design

Before the study procedure, permission was obtained from the Hatay Governor's office and the Governors' ethics board. The study questionnaires and the study plan for the research were discussed with the principals of the five schools. The principals granted consent. A study schedule was planned for each school. Four classes of year 10 (15 years of age), year 11 (16 years of age) and year 12 (17 years of age) students were randomly chosen from each school to create a total of 12 classes per school and 60 classes overall. Every school was visited for at least two times during the study. On the study days, a brief introduction was made to each class by a member of the research team. In the introductory talk, a member of the research team clearly stated that all of the information in the questionnaires would be confidential and would not be shared with the participants' families, the principal of the school and the teachers. Only the age and gender of the adolescents were used in the questionnaires. Informed consent was obtained from every student. Students from each of the classes completed the confidential questionnaire during one teaching period (approximately 45 minutes) with no discussion. During the procedure, one member of the research team and one teacher were present in the classroom as silent observers. The member of the research team was available to answer any questions from the students about the questionnaire to minimize the number of missing or incorrectly answered items.


The study questionnaire included two parts: Questions on internet use and questions on sleep habits/sleep problems. The questionnaire on the internet use included the Young's Internet Addiction Scale (IAS) and a brief semi-structured inquiry designed by the research team. The questionnaire on sleep habits/sleep problems included a detailed semi-structured inquiry on sleep habits/sleep problems of adolescents designed by the research team.

Brief Semi-Structured Inquiry on the Weekly Internet Use of Adolescents

Adolescents were asked how often they use the internet in a week (for the last week) and asked to choose one of these following four answers: "Once in a week", "2-3 times a week", "4-5 times a week", "almost everyday". Adolescents were also asked how much time they usually spend when they are online. The four answers of this question were as following: "Less than 30 minutes", "between 30 and 60 minutes", "more than 1 hour", "more than 2 hours".

Young's Internet Addiction Scale

Young's Internet Addiction Scale (IAS) examines the degree of preoccupation, compulsive use, behavioural problems, emotional changes, and the impact on life related to internet use (10). It is comprised of 20 multiple-choice questions written at a 5-point Likert scale, classified as rarely, occasionally, frequently, often, and always; given a total score ranging from 20 to 100 points, with higher scores reflecting a greater tendency toward addiction. Three types of internet user groups were identified in accordance with the original scheme of Young: Internet addicts (IAs), possible internet addicts (Pas) and nonaddicts (NAs), whose scores on the IAS were higher than 80, 50-79, and below 50, respectively (10). The validity and reliability of the Turkish version of the IAS has been demonstrated in Turkish adolescents (15).

In the present study, the above mentioned classification of the IAS could not be used. The reason for this approach was that there was an accumulation of the subjects with IAS scores below 50 in the group (n=1023, 84.4%), which limited the comparison of groups. Instead of the original criteria, our sample was divided into three groups: subjects with a total score higher than 70, between 40-69 and below 40. The percentages of both the original criteria and the criteria used in the study are presented in the results. The Cronbach's alpha value of the IAS was calculated as 0.92 in our study sample.

Semi-structured Inquiry on Sleep Habits/problems

The inquiry included 17 questions on the sleep habits/problems of the adolescents. The first 8 questions of the inquiry investigated the sleep habits of adolescents: (for the last month in weekdays) "When do you usually get to bed", "How long does it take you to fall asleep in the nights", "After falling asleep, how many times a night do you get awake (staying awake more than 10 minutes)", "How often do you sleep after coming from school", "How often do you drink coffee in the night", "How often do you smoke in the night", "How often do you drink alcohol in the night" and "How do you grade your sleep quality". The last 9 questions of the inquiry was designed as a 5-point Likert scale (never, rarely, occasionally, frequently, always) and focused on sleep problems of the sample. Some examples of the inquiry are as follows: "How often do you fall asleep in the classroom", "How often do you feel sleepy during lessons", "How often do you have difficulty to fall asleep in the night", "How often do you have trouble to wake up in the morning" (the complete inquiry is in the tables). Cronbach's alpha for the scale was calculated as 0.73. The nonadditivity value of these 17 questions was 437.35 (p<0.001) and the total score was not used in the study.

Statistical Analyses

The collected data were analyzed by using the SPSS version 15.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL). For the comparison of categorical variables, Pearson's chi-square test and the linear-by-linear association test were used. Parametric variables were compared between the groups by using Student's t-test when the distribution of the compared variable was normal. The Mann-Whitney U-test was used for the comparison of continuous variables where they were not normally distributed. A p value of less than 0.05 was accepted to be statistically significant.


A total of 1212 adolescents were included in the study. Of the study sample, 637 (52.6%) were girls. The mean age of the sample was 16[+ or -]0.98 years (range 14-19 years). The general characteristics of the adolescents' sleep habits and their ratings about their sleep quality are shown in Table 1.

Table 2 shows the frequencies of adolescents' sleep problems. As seen in the table, 122 (10.1%) adolescents reported that they frequently had difficulty to fall asleep in the night. 257 (21.2%) adolescents reported that they had difficulty to wake up in the morning (Table 2). Some gender differences were also found regarding these variables. The frequency of drinking coffee in the night was higher in girls, while the frequencies of smoking and drinking alcohol were higher in boys (p=0.001 for each).

Table 3 shows the internet habits and IAS total scores of the sample. As seen in the table, 25% (n=304) of the sample reported using internet almost everyday. 451 (37.2%) adolescents reported to spend between 30 and 60 minutes when they were online. The mean IAS total score in the sample was 35.56[+ or -]13.87. 376 (31.1%) adolescents had a IAS total score higher than 40 (Table 3). There were also some gender differences in terms of internet use. Girls reported a higher frequency of weekly internet use and an increased time spent online (p=0.001 for both).

The comparison of the adolescents's sleep habits according to their IAS total scores is shown in Table 4. As seen in the table, those who had an IAS score between 40 and 69 and higher than 70 had significant differences than the adolescents with a IAS score below 40 (p=0.001). While 36% of adolescents with a IAS total score below 40 rated their sleep quality as "good", 29% of subjects a IAS score between 40 and 69 and 25% of those with a IAS score higher than 70, did the same evaluation. Of note, 41% of the adolescents with a IAS score higher than 70 rated their sleep quality as "very bad". In addition to the findings in the table, the frequencies of drinking coffee and alcohol in the night were different in the groups. Higher frequencies were found in those with a IAS score between 40 and 69, and in ones with a IAS score higher than 70 (p=0.001 and p=0.001).

Table 5 shows the comparison of IAS groups according to their frequencies of sleep problems. Only the significant findings are presented in the table. As seen in the table, the adolescents with IAS scores between 40 and 69 and higher than 70 reported higher frequencies of sleep problems when compared to those with a IAS score below 40 (Table 5).


Electronic media have often been considered to have a negative impact on the sleep quality and daytime functioning in adolescents. In the present study, the association of excessive internet use with sleep habits/problems was investigated in Turkish high school students. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first that focused on the issue in Turkish youth. Our findings revealed that problematic sleep habits and reported sleep problems were more frequent in adolescents with a higher IAS score.

In our sample, the prevalence of problematic sleep habits and sleep problems were observed to be similar to that of Western population studies. More than one-fourth of the adolescents reported that they got to bed at 24:00 or later and, approximately 10% of the adolescents reported that they spent more than 30 minutes to fall asleep in the night. A finding which deserves special attention is that %15 of the sample rated their sleep quality as bad or very bad. These findings are generally consistent with the previous studies on problematic sleep habits from different countries. In a study by Liu et al. (3), 18% of adolescents reported their sleep quality as poor. A number of studies have shown late bed times and delayed sleeping in adolescents (1,2,3,6,7,8). Regarding the spesific sleep problems reported, almost one-third of our sample stated that they frequently felt tired and sleepy during the day and one-fifth stated that they frequently had difficulty to wake up in the morning. Previous studies have shown similar findings on adolescents' sleep problems (2,3,6,7,8,9).

In this study, approximately one-fourth of the adolescents stated that they used the internet almost everyday and spent more than one hour online. In a previous study from Turkey, Tahiroglu et al. (23) found that 7.6% of their cohort, which consisted of 3975 undergraduate students, used the internet more than 12 hours weekly. Another study by the same group, which investigated the characteristics of problematic internet use in adolescents with and without psychiatric disorders, reported that frequency of using the internet more than 8 hours weekly was 23% and 10% in psychopathology and normal control groups, respectively (24). Although the frequency of high risk IAS score (IAs) was low in our study sample, when adding the moderate risk (PAs) to the high risk group, almost one/third of the adolescents may be considered to be at risk for pathologic internet use. One study from Turkey, which used IAS, reported the same frequency (IAs +PAs) as 22% (15). Previous studies from Western and the Far East countries found the frequency of pathological internet use between 1.5 and 27% (12,15,25,26,27).

In the present study, adolescents with a higher IAS score reported significantly higher frequencies of problematic sleep habits. They reported getting to bed later in the night, needing more time to fall asleep, having an increased number of awakenings in the night and being more likely to sleep after coming from school. Overall, they also rated their sleep quality worse than the adolescents with lower IAS score. In correlation with these findings, those with a higher IAS score also reported higher frequencies of several sleep problems. These sleep problems mainly centered on difficulty in initiating and sustaining sleep, difficulty in waking up and feelings of sleepiness in day. Taken together, our findings may be interpreted that high IAS scores were associated with broadly disturbed sleeping habits and related sleep problems. Most of the previous studies reported similar findings despite the differences on the evaluation of pathological internet use. Van den Bulck (17) and Oka et al. (28) used the method of examining total time spent on internet and reported that excessive internet use was related with delayad bed times, delayed wake-up times and tiredness in weekdays. Yen et al. (29) used a self-report questionnaire to assess symptoms of internet addiction and found pathological internet use related with shorter total sleep times and insomnia symptoms. Mesquita and Reimao (30) focused on the nightime use of computer by adolescents and demonstrated that excessive internet use, "surfing the web", was a predictor of poor sleep quality and daytime sleepiness.

With the dramatic increase in its availability and popularity, internet has greatly impended in adolescent's lives. Typical adolescents spend a significant proportion of their free time in the internet. Especially in the night, many adolescents are online and surfing the web for hours before going to bed. Unavoidably, some of these adolescents have a disabling difficulty to limit their internet use and have the risk of becoming an internet addict. The findings of the present study, replicating and extending the previous literature, strongly indicate that excessive internet use is associated with disturbed sleep patterns, mainly characerized by insufficient sleep, poor sleep quality and resulting daytime sleepiness symptoms. Several explanations may be proposed for this association. Nightly internet use may directly displace the time of sleep. Internet use in the evenings may also cause adolescents to become physiologically aroused, making it more difficult for them to relax prior to bedtime. Another explanation may be that excessive nightly exposure to bright light from computer screens may suppress melatonin and consequently delay the circadian rhythm (31).

This study has several noteworthy limitations. One of them is the lack of a standardized questionnaire on sleep habits and problems. Such a questionnaire might increase the validity of our findings on sleep. The use of only self-report data may also be considered as a limitation. Although the self-report data of adolescents is important, information taken from the parents would add further valuable results to the study. This study has been conducted in five centrally located high schools in Hatay in which students from middle socioeconomic status are educated. Therefore, our results can not be generalized to all adolescents in Hatay and Turkey. In the present study, there was no distinction between computer based and cell-phone based internet use of adolescents. In addition, internet use of adolescents in public internet cafes was not examined separetely. Since the availability, social-parental acceptence and the psychosocial risks of home and public internet use are different, there may also be differences regarding the sleep habits of adolescents with such preferences.


Internet addiction, which is a public health problem in youth, appears to be related with problematic sleep habits and sleep problems. Further studies with larger sample size and better methodology are needed the understand the nature, dimensions and the ethiological background of this relationship. Health care providers must be aware of the possible negative impact of excessive and uncontrolled internet use on adolescents' sleep habits. Careful evaluation of the exposure of adolescents to internet and their sleep habits and daytime functioning will help to identify the adolescents who are under the risk of internet addiction and sleep problems.

Doi: 10.4274/npa.y6751


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Ozalp EKINCI [1], Tanju CELIK [2], Nazan SAVAS [3], Fevziye TOROS [1]

[1] Mersin University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Child Psychiatry, Mersin, Turkey

[2] Mustafa Kemal University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Hatay, Turkey

[3] Mustafa Kemal University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health, Hatay, Turkey

Arsivi 2014; 51:122-128)

Anahtar kelimeler: Uyku sorunlari, ergen, internet

Correspondence Address/Yazflma Adresi

Ozalp Ekinci MD, Mersin University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Child Psychiatry, Mersin, Turkey

Gsm: +90 506 611 15 00 E-mail: Received/Gelis tarihi: 11.07.2012 Accepted/Kabul tarihi: 17.09.2012
Table 1. General characteristics of adolescents' sleep habits
and sleep quality Sleep habits and sleep quality of adolescents

When do you usually       20:00-         22:00         23:00
get to bed?            21:00 80 (66)   272 (22.4)    519 (42.8)
(In hours, n %)

How much time does         5-10          15-20           30
it take to fall          497 (41)      443 (36.6)    138 (11.4)
asleep in the
nights? (In minutes,
n %)

After falling              Never          1-2           3-4
asleep, how many        600 (49.5)     500(41.3)      89 (7.3)
times a night do you
get awake? (n %)

How often do you           Never         Rarely     Occasionally
sleep after coming      297 (24.5)     453 (37.4)    294 (24.3)
from school? (n %)

How often do you           Never         Rarely     Occasionally
drink coffee in the     504 (41.6)     370 (30.5)    208 (17.2)
night? (n %)

How often do you           Never         Rarely     Occasionally
smoke in the night?     1135 (93.6)     43 (3.5)      17 (1.4)
(n %)

How often do you           Never         Rarely     Occasionally
drink alcohol in the    887 (73.2)     189(15.6)     111 (9.2)
night? (n %)

How do you grade         Very good        Good        Moderate
your sleep quality?
(n %)

When do you usually      24:00       After 24:00
get to bed?            209 (17.2)     132 (10.9)
(In hours, n %)

How much time does       30-45      At least 1 hour
it take to fall         81 (6.7)       53 (4.4)
asleep in the
nights? (In minutes,
n %)

After falling             5-7            8-10
asleep, how many        15(1.3)         8 (0.7)
times a night do you
get awake? (n %)

How often do you       Frequently       Always
sleep after coming     122 (9.2)       56 (4.6)
from school? (n %)

How often do you       Frequently       Always
drink coffee in the     95 (7.8)       39 (2.9)
night? (n %)

How often do you       Frequently       Always
smoke in the night?     10 (0.8)        7 (0.6)
(n %)

How often do you       Frequently       Always
drink alcohol in the    14(1.2)        10 (0.8)
night? (n %)

How do you grade          Bad          Very Bad
your sleep quality?
(n %)

Table 2. Characteristics of adolescents' sleep problems

                     Never        Rarely     Occasionally   Frequently
                     n (%)        n (%)         n (%)         n (%)

How often do      551 (45.4)    372 (40.7)    219 (18.1)     41 (3.4)
you fall asleep
in class ?

How often do       98 (8.1)     432 (35.6)     461 (38)     164 (13.5)
you feel sleepy
lessons ?

How often do      371 (30.6)    344 (28.4)    308 (25.4)    122 (10.1)
you have
difficulty to
fall asleep in
the night ?

How often do        49 (4)      248 (20.5)    462 (38.1)    345 (28.5)
you feel sleepy
and tired in
the day ?

How often do      141 (11.6)    290 (23.9)    289 (23.8)    257 (21.2)
you have
difficulty to
wake up in the

How often do      438 (36.1)    483 (39.9)    197 (16.3)     62 (5.1)
you have
nightmares ?

How often do      749 (61.8)    252 (20.8)    128 (10.6)     47 (3.9)
you talk in
sleep (your or
your families'
statement) ?

How often do      1069 (88.2)    70 (5.8)       36 (3)       27 (2.2)
you have teeth
grinding (your
or your
statement) ?

How often do      1153 (95.1)    27 (2.2)      20 (1.7)      8 (0.7)
you need
medication or
alcohol to fall
asleep ?

Table 3. Internet habits and IAS total scores of the sample

                                n          %

How often do you use
internet in a week?
  Once in a week                342       28
  2-3 times a week              327       27
  Almost everyday               304       25
How much time do you
usually spend when you are
  Less than 30 minutes          246      20.3
  Between 30 and 60 minutes     451      37.2
  More than 1 hour              327       27

IAS total Score                  n         %

* Below 50                     1023      84.4
* 50-79                         176      14.5
* Higher than 80                13        1.1
** Below 40                     836       69
** 40-69                        345      28.5
** Higher than 70               31        2.6

* Percentages according to the original classification
criteria of IAS by Young

** Percentages according to the IAS classification criteria
used in the study (Details in the
methods section)

Table 4. Comparison of the adolescents s sleep habits according
to their IAS total scores

                                 IAS: < 40      IAS: 40-69
                                    n (%)         n (%)
                                  836 (69)      345 (28.5)
When do you usually
get to bed in?
(In hours, n %)                 265 (75.3)         79 (22.4)
  22:00:                        355 (68.4)        157 (30.3)
  23:00:                        216 (63.3)          109 (32)
  24:00 [up arrow]:
How much time does
it take to fall asleep
in the nights?
  5-20 minutes                  673 (71.6)        247 (26.3)
  At least 30 minutes            88 (63.8)         46 (33.3)
  30 minutes [up arrow]:           75 (56)         52 (38.8)
After falling asleep,
how many times
a night do you get awake?
  Never                         763 (69.4)        314 (28.5)
  1-4 times                      61 (68.5)           24 (27)
  5-10 times                     12 (52.2)          7 (30.4)
How often do you sleep
after coming from school?
  Never or rarely               547 (72.9)        186 (24.8)
  Occasionally                  184 (62.6)        105 (35.7)
  Frequently                    105 (62.5)         54 (32.1)
How do you grade
your sleep quality?
  Good:                         471 (74.8)        149 (23.7)
  Moderate:                     247 (64.3)        129 (33.6)
  Bad:                          118 (14.1)         67 (33.8)

                                  IAS: >70
                                    n (%)                P *
                                  31 (2.6)
When do you usually
get to bed in?
(In hours, n %)                    8 (2.3)             0.001
  22:00:                           7 (1.3)           * 0.001
  23:00:                          16 (4.7)
  24:00 [up arrow]:
How much time does
it take to fall asleep
in the nights?
  5-20 minutes                    20 (2.1)             0.002
  At least 30 minutes              4 (2.9)           * 0.001
  30 minutes [up arrow]:           7 (5.2)
After falling asleep,
how many times
a night do you get awake?
  Never                           23 (2.1)             0.001
  1-4 times                        4 (4.5)           * 0.014
  5-10 times                      4 (17.4)
How often do you sleep
after coming from school?
  Never or rarely                 17 (2.3)             0.001
  Occasionally                     5 (1.7)           * 0.001
  Frequently                       9 (5.4)
How do you grade
your sleep quality?
  Good:                           10 (1.6)             0.001
  Moderate:                        8 (2.1)           * 0.001
  Bad:                            13 (6.6)

Table 5. Comparison of IAS groups according to their frequencies
of sleep problems

                          IAS: <40    IAS: 40-69   IAS: >70
                           n (%)        n (%)       n (%)
                          836 (69)    345 (28.5)   31 (2.6)     p *

How often do you fall
asleep in class?
  Never or rarely        684 (74.1)   227 (24.6)   12 (1.3)    0.001
  Occasionally           128 (56.8)    80 (36.5)   11 (5)    * 0.001
  Frequently              24 (34.3)    38 (54.3)    8 (11.4)
How often do you feel
sleepy during lessons
  Never or rarely        437 (82.5)    89 (16.8)    4 (0.8)      0.001
  Occasionally           293 (63.6)   160 (34.7)    8 (1.7)    * 0.001
  Frequently             106 (48)      96 (43.4)   19 (8.6)
How often do you have
to fall asleep
  Never or rarely        527 (73.7)   175 (24.5)   13 (1.8)     0.001
  Occasionally           207 (67.2)    89 (28.9)   12 (3.9)   * 0.001
  Frequently             102 (54)      81 (42.9)    6 (3.2)
How often do you feel
sleepy and tired
in the day
  Never or rarely        244 (82.2)   49 (16,5)     4 (1.3)      0.001
  Occasionally           328 (71)    130 (28.1)     4 (0.9)    * 0.001
  Frequently             264 (58.3)  166 (36.6)    23 (5.1)
How often do you have
difficulty to wake up
in the morning
  Never or rarely        343 (78.6)     82 (19)     6 (1.4)      0.001
  Occasionally           215 (74.4)     66 (22.8)   8 (2.8)    * 0.001
  Frequently             278 (56.5)     197(40)    17 (3.5)
How often do you
have nightmares
  Never or rarely        648 (70.4)   253 (27.5)   20 (2.2)      0.006
  Occasionally           135 (68.5)   58 (28.4)     4 (2)      * 0.003
  Frequently              53 (56.4    34 (36.2)     7 (7.4)
How often do you talk
in sleep (your or your
families' statement)
  Never or rarely        703 (70.2)   278 (27.8)    20 (2)       0.002
  Occasionally            89 (69.5)    34 (26.6)     5 (3.9)   * 0.001
  Frequently              44 (53)      33 (39.8)     6 (7.2)

Chi-square test and * Linear-by-Linear Association
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Title Annotation:Research Article/Arastirma Makalesi
Author:Ekinci, Ozalp; Celik, Tanju; Savas, Nazan; Toros, Fevziye
Publication:Archives of Neuropsychiatry
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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