Tired Children? Could be Too Much Screen Time
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – If your children are falling asleep watching TV or with a cell phone tucked under the covers, they're probably going to bed later and getting much less sleep than children without access to electronic devices.
Monique LeBourgeois, lead author of a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, says children are uniquely vulnerable to sleep disruption from electronic screens.
She explains because the eyes of young children are not fully developed, the light from a screen has a bigger effect on their internal body clock.
"And many parents believe that media – like watching a video or playing a game – actually calms their children before bedtime, but in fact it may be the exact opposite and we may be creating the perfect storm to disruption of both the circadian clock and sleep," LeBourgeois explains.
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 Common Sense Media showed use of mobile media devices has tripled among children ages 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 such as smartphones, tablets and televisions bathe their eyes in blue light that can keep sleep at bay.
"So this immature eye allows more light to actually hit the retina that signals the internal biological clock," she explains.
LeBourgeois encourages parents to turn off their children’s 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 cell phones out of their own bedrooms.