New Study Finds Late Night Electronics Increase Insomnia in Children and Teens

Professionals in the transportation industry know how vital sleep is to overall health and wellness. What may be surprising is the sleep required by your children. While adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, children and teenagers require at least 9 to 11 hours of sleep for cell and brain rejuvenation. A new study published in the journal Pediatrics reveals that common household items may be keeping your children from getting the restful, restorative sleep their require.

Conducted by researchers in New Zealand at the University of Auckland, the study finds that electronic gadgets—such as TV, video games, and computers—increase the time it takes for children and teenagers to fall asleep, thus increasing their risk for insomnia and symptoms of daytime sleepiness. The researchers tracked the habits of 2,016 participants between the ages of 5 and 18. Participants reported their activities for the 90 minutes prior to sleep, which were then categorized into 3 groups: 1) Self-care 2) Non-screen sedentary time & 3) Screen sedentary time. Researchers found that the children and teenagers who spent the majority of their time before bed engaged in “screen sedentary time” had more difficulty falling asleep than those who were listed under categories 1 and 2.

The study’s findings reveal a serious problem that goes beyond trouble falling asleep. Prolonged time needed for sleep onset is an indication that your child may also be suffering from not enough sleep. A few extra minutes each night of wakefulness can add up to an hour or more of missed sleep each week. The study’s findings indicate a critical need for ensuring adequate sleep duration in children and teenagers, especially when paired with evidence from other studies linking insufficient sleep to behavioral problems later in childhood. Luckily, researchers believe they know the connection between electronics and the brain’s reluctance to fall asleep.

The blue light emitted from electronics is one reason for the heightened wakefulness after extended “screen sedentary time.” The body’s circadian rhythm—or internal clock—regulates the wake/sleep cycle for the body. The blue light from TVs, video games, and computers is interpreted as sunlight and disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm. This artificial sunlight actually prevents the body from releasing the hormones responsible for inducing sleep and limits the amount of sleep he/she gets. As a result of this limited sleep, your child will likely suffer from symptoms of daytime sleepiness which include:

    • Grogginess
    • Lowered attention span
    • Decreased short-term memory
    • Irritability

Below are a few tips to help your children get the healthy sleep their young bodies and minds need.

Tips for Helping Your Children Get the Rest They Require:

Have a nightly bedtime routine that excludes stimulating electronics at least 90 minutes prior to sleep.

Complete all physical activities at least 2 hours before your child’s bedtime.

Eliminate districting distracting lights and noise as much as possible in your child’s room, including the blue light that glows from some bedside clocks.

Appropriate nighttime activities immediately before bed can include reading, journaling, or listening to soothing music.

Increase time spent outdoors—sunlight regulates the body’s circadian rhythm and ensures that sleep inducing hormones are released at night.

Cut out the caffeine by the late afternoon hours. With the upsurge in energy drinks, it is important to make sure that your child stops drinking them well before bed.