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Children’s Bedroom Devices Robbing them of Sleep

One of the most often-repeated cautions issued by sleep scientists regards the use of electronic devices within a few hours of bedtime. It has been shown that the blue light that emanates from laptops, cell phones, tablets and even our televisions is a specific type of light ray that fools our brains into thinking that it is daytime and actually causes a chemical shift that makes us feel more alert. Adults who are having trouble falling asleep are warned to shut down their cell phones and engage in relaxing activities for at least two hours before turning in, and now experts are saying that the same is true for children.

Researchers from Stony Brook University in New York conducted a study that looks at the impact of having electronic devices in the bedrooms of children between the ages of six and seventeen, and have determined that they cost the children an average of at least one hour of sleep per night.  This is a particularly alarming result, as a National Sleep Foundation study confirmed that three out of four American children have at least one of these electronic devices in their bedrooms, and an hour less of sleep can have serious repercussions for children’s health, as well as their ability to learn and remember.

The devices in your child's room may be impacting their sleep health. The devices in your child's room may be impacting their sleep health.

The study’s authors have recommended that in light of their results, parents need to create a night-time routine that involves shutting off the electronics and then engaging in relaxing activities such as taking a bath, reading a story or listening to music. The more regularly these activities are performed, the more the child will become habituated to the bedtime cues and the more easily they will fall asleep each night.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Jill Creighton, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at stony Brook Children’s Hospital, says that because the light from backlit electronics effects sleep, it is best to remove them from the room for the night. “The burst of light from a phone, even if it’s just to check the time, can break a sleep cycle,” she says. “A regular alarm clock is best.”

Dr. Creighton goes on to make other recommendations for parents. “Reduce screen time by thirty minutes or more each week until you reach your goal. A good rule of thumb is to try to limit recreational screen time to sixty minutes every day. And for every thirty minutes of screen time, make sure your kids get thirty minutes of physical activity.”

Getting kids today to engage in the type of activity that counters too much time in front of a television or other device is difficult, but important. Dr. Creighton says, “It’s sometimes hard to get kids off the couch and get them moving, especially if they think of physical activity as ‘exercise’ or ‘boring.’ Parents, get creative and make moving fun for kids.”

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