Kids' Research: Sleep Better Without Screens

Kids' Research: Sleep Better Without Screens Click to Enlarge

ST. PAUL, Minn. - There's new research about the importance of minimizing screen time for children during the evening hours.

If 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 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 the both the circadian clock and sleep," she points out.

Other studies have found that screen time is associated with delayed bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep and poorer sleep quality.

A report from the nonprofit organization Common Sense Media showed mobile media device use has tripled among young children aged 5 to 16 in the past six years.

LeBourgeois says light is the brain's primary timekeeper, and when it comes to children and adolescents, self-illuminated devices such as smartphones, tablets and televisions bathe children's eyes in blue light that can keep sleep at bay.

"So this immature eye allows more light to actually hit the retina that signal 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 cellphones out of their own bedrooms.

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