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“Lights out” is no longer a sufficient instruction from parents to hyperactive children at bedtime. Screen time is affecting children’s sleep. Now with the pervasive and inescapable advent of technology, flicking the light switch off isn’t sufficient. Children can enter into an alternate reality with a few taps from the comfort of their bed.
Digital technology is now sewn into the very fabric of society, but how does technology affect sleep? Glowing blue screens just inches away from a child’s eyes has severe consequences on sleep quality. Parents need to understand how long before bed should you turn off electronics in your child’s bedroom. The importance of sleep for kids cannot be understated even though how many hours of sleep are right for individuals can vary.
How does technology affect sleep?
More than 90 percent of teenagers and adults in the United States use technology before bed. Even more startling is the fact that around 72 percent of children ages six to 17 sleep with at least one electronic device in their bedroom. But how is all this screen time affecting children’s sleep?
One study concluded that there was a significant relationship between average hours of sleep and technology use before bedtime. Televisions, phones, video games, and computers all were statistically significant in accounting for at least 30 minutes of lost sleep due to use before bedtime.
But not all screens are equal. Although it’s best completely remove technology from your bedroom before sleeping, working on a laptop or scrolling through social media is especially detrimental to your sleep.
"Having a computer screen that is eight inches away from your face is going to expose you to a lot more light than watching a television on the opposite side of the room," says Karrie Fitzpatrick, a sleep researcher at Northwestern University in Illinois. "It's going to tell your brain to stay awake," says Dr. Fitzpatrick.
Ways Technology Impacts Your Child’s Sleep
- Suppress melatonin production. Screens emit blue light that is picked up by photoreceptors in the retina that sense light and dark. These receptors are an essential component of our internal body clock and signal to the brain that it’s either morning or night. The sun is supposed to trigger photoreceptors naturally, but the blue light from screens can trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime, suppressing melatonin production and leading to feeling awake.
- Increased alertness. Whatever we are looking at on our screens is engaging our attention, and our brains become more alert. Studies have show that content on devices —whether it’s a game, stressful text, or breaking news — may be psychologically stimulating and keep children and teens alert long after they power off for the night.
- Activity absorption. A 30-minute show can quickly turn into a binge-watching session when it comes to entertainment. This goes for any activity that’s engaging, such as gaming or chatting with friends. Sleeping with electronic devices results in nearly an hour’s worth of difference in sleep among children between the ages of six and 17 when compared to children without those devices.
- Increases difficulty in falling asleep.Notifications or incoming stimuli can cause a phone to ding or buzz, waking up a child close to falling asleep. Even if the device is on silent or vibrate, the light from the device or the buzz triggers our brains and tempts us to check out what we’re missing out on.
How to Minimize the Effects of Screen Time on Children's Sleep
Making the bedroom a gadget-free zone helps break the cycle of technology use before bedtime.This might be unavoidable for adolescents who have to use devices for homework, but young children should have all technology removed from their bedroom, so there is no temptation of them grabbing it while in bed.
During evening use, dim the screen of devices and turn on night settings to decrease the amount of blue light emitted by screens. This feature warms the display and is less harsh on the eyes. Turning down the brightness on the screens will help negate the risks of disrupting your circadian rhythm.
Technology is nearly inescapable now. Limit children’s use of devices in the evenings, especially on school nights for better back-to-school sleep. Encourage other calming activities such as reading, playing a board game, coloring, or journaling closer to bed.
How long before bed should you turn off electronics?
Ideally, phones, tablets, computers, and televisions should be powered off for at least an hour before going to bed. Research has shown that after 1.5 hours of technology use in the evening, people reported feeling less tired. Scientists concluded that repeated use of blue light devices at night can delay the body’s internal clock by 1.5 hours causing people to go to bed later and reducing the amount of REM sleep.
Shut down the phone and get some shut-eye!
If you want to break your child’s tech addiction, it starts at the top. Screen time affecting children’s sleep is becoming a public health crisis, so parents have to step up. Parents are role models and should be putting down their own devices near bedtime to demonstrate that unplugging isn’t just an annoying rule — it’s the key to healthy sleep habits!
Not all technology is bad for your sleep, however. While scrolling through social media at 1 a.m. can be bad for your circadian rhythm, mattress technology is not. Comfort and customization of your mattress play a big role in your sleep quality and quantity.
There’s a scientific approach to finding out which mattress is best for you. BedMATCH uses a combination of height, weight, pressure points, and your sleep preferences to make choosing a mattress that’s perfect for you much easier. Get offline and on your unique bed today!