Sufficient sleep is crucial for a child’s development however, many children don’t regularly get enough sleeping. A recent study found that teens who use screens before bedtime more often experience insomnia. Researchers also found that younger children who use screens before bed often have disrupted sleep.
Many parents use screens to help kids unwind after a busy day. Even calming children’s shows that help children learn to regulate emotions and decompress can lead to disrupted sleep if viewed too close to bedtime. Research shows that screen time before bed may cause your child’s poor sleep.
How Does Screen Time Negatively Affect Sleep?
Reduced Melatonin Production
The blue light emitted by smartphones, tablets, and computers can interfere with the body’s natural production of the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate sleep. Exposure to blue light in the evening can suppress melatonin production, making it harder to fall and stay asleep.
The content of what you engage with, like social media, video games, or television, can be overstimulating. An overactive brain can make it difficult to relax and fall asleep. Using electronic devices before bedtime can disrupt the routine, making it harder for your body to know it’s time to sleep.
Staying Up Too Late
Children who spend time on devices before bed can become engrossed in what they are doing and lose track of time. It can be challenging for parents to enforce bedtimes if children can access screens in their bedrooms. When children stay up late, they usually aren’t getting enough sleep which can negatively affect their health.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
The amount of sleep each child needs may vary. However, more pediatricians recommend the hours listed.
Hours of Sleep Per Day
- Infants (0-3 months): 14-17 hours, including naps
- Infants (4-12 months): 12-16 hours, including naps
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours, including naps
- Preschool (3-5 years): 10-13 hours, including naps
- School-Age (6-13): 9-12 hours
- Teens (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
How to Reduce Screen Time Before Bed and Improve Quality of Sleep for Children
Limit Screen Time Before Bed
Create a Screen Time Plan for your family that includes turning off devices an hour before bed. This includes cell phones, television, tablets, and computers. Encourage children to read or play with toys instead. In addition to limiting screen time before bed, you can set up parental controls on most devices that will limit their total screen use for the day to prevent overstimulation.
Set an Age-Appropriate Bedtime
Use the chart above to set an age-appropriate bedtime for each of your children. Consider what time they need to wake up and how much sleep they need. Giving children a set bedtime will help their body to anticipate when it’s time for sleep.
Create a Screen-Free Bedroom
Choose a central location for cell phones, tablets, and computers to charge at night. Also, don’t place a television in the child’s bedroom. Create a calm and restful space for them to relax and disconnect from screens. Removing screens from the bedroom helps create healthy boundaries and removes the temptation to stay up past bedtime.
Establishing A Bedtime Routine
When children have a consistent bedtime routine, it will help trigger the body’s natural response to prepare for sleep. A bedtime routine can be a simple 3-4 step process that includes bathing, brushing teeth, reading a book, or listening to calming music. For older children and teens, it might be a good time to have a meaningful conversation or talk to them about their day.
Be A Good Example
Screen time before bed not only affects the sleep of children but also adults. Adults should limit their screen time before bed and establish a healthy relationship with their devices. Children are watching and imitating the behavior of their parents, so setting a good example is the best way to teach them.