As a parent, bedtime can be a struggle. You may have bought them the best mattress, but it doesn’t matter if they’re running all over the house, jumping on the bed, or watching youtube tutorials on their phone or tablet for how to make slime. It turns out that this last one may have detrimental effects on your child’s sleep that could lead to sleep disorders, both later in life and during these crucial years of sleep development.
A team of researchers at the University of Colorado recently compiled research on the effect of screen time (be it phone, tablet, or television) on children’s sleep quality. The results were startling. According to the study, “Of more than five dozen studies looking at youths ages 5 to 17 from around the world, 90% have found that more screen time is associated with delayed bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep, and poorer sleep quality.”
That’s scary news, but hardly surprising to most parents out there who catch their kids using an iphone while gearing up for bed on their best mattress. The problem comes from the fact that children are especially susceptible to the dangers of screen time before bed. It’s a physical issue: a child’s eye is not as developed as an adults, and as such they are extra sensitive to blue light, which is given off by most screens. Blue light is an enemy of the regular sleep schedule, tricking the body into thinking that it’s daylight, and thus keeping the body in awake mode, instead of naturally gearing down for the day.
“We know younger individuals have larger pupils, and their lenses are more transparent, so their exposure and sensitivity to that light is even greater than in older individuals,” says Monique LeBourgeois, a sleep scientist and professor who commissioned the study. “Light is our brain clock’s primary timekeeper.”
Here’s how it works, when light hits the retina during evening hours, it produces a confusing number of signals to the circadian system. This suppresses the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and delays sleepiness, pushing back the timing of the body clock that should naturally be occurring while lying on your best mattress. It’s because of this that America’s children are facing a sleep epidemic. Over thirty percent of elementary school kids, and over fifty percent of middle and high school kids aren’t getting the recommended number of hours of sleep time every night.
A Simple Solution: Less Screens and More Sleep
It may seem like a no-brainer, but here’s the solution: take away the offending devices. Make sure your child’s room is free of tablets, phones, and screens of any kind. Not only that, teach your kids that the hours leading up to bedtime are a restful period. Sure, they may not want to meditate, but storytime with a book and a parent is always a better option than binging on Netflix again. You can also lead by example. Make sure that you aren’t checking your phone to answer one last email before bed. It’s not just about the best mattress, treat the bedroom as a sacred space without technology, for you and for your kids. You’re not going to believe the results.