Overtired, Bleary-Eyed Kids? Blame Too Much Screen Time
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M – If your kids are falling asleep watching TV or with cell a phone tucked under the covers they're likely going to bed later and getting much less sleep than kids without access to electronic devices.
Monique LeBourgeois, the associate professor of the Dept. of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado is the lead author on a new study that says children are uniquely vulnerable to sleep disruption from electronic screens. She says because the eyes of young children are not fully developed, the light has a bigger effect on their internal body clock.
"And many parents believe that media - like watching a video or playing a game - calms their children before bedtime but in fact, it may be the exact opposite," she explains. "And we may be creating the perfect storm to disruption of both the circadian clock and sleep."
Studies have found that screen time is associated with delayed bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep and poorer sleep quality.
A recent report from the nonprofit organization, Commonsense Media, showed mobile media device use has tripled among young children aged 5 to 16 in the past six years. LeBourgeois says light is our brain's primary timekeeper and when it comes to children and adolescents, self-illuminated devices like smartphones, tablets and televisions bathe kids eyes in blue light which can keep sleep at bay.
"So this immature eye allows more light to actually hit the retina that signals the internal biological clock," she adds.
LeBourgeois encourages parents to turn off their kids' devices with screens before bed and charge them somewhere outside bedrooms. She also says parents should set an example by keeping TVs, computers, tablets and cellphones out of their own bedrooms.