Is Screen Time Affecting Your Child’s Sleep?

Experts claim Australians of all ages are sleep deprived, and digital devices are identified as one of the main reasons for this ‘sleep crisis.’ A lack of sleep is very damaging for children who need quality rest to grow and learn.

According to the Australian Child Health Poll, released in June 2017, 43% of children use devices before bedtime, and 26% of this group have sleep difficulties. Dr Seton, a sleep expert from Westmead Hospital in Sydney believes 15% of girls aged 14 get only five hours of sleep a night, causing them to be chronically sleep deprived.

Poor sleep habits affect children’s alertness, concentration and ability to learn and remember information. Studies confirm that just 30 minutes of missed sleep can lead to a 10-point drop in IQ. Sleep deprivation can also affect emotional health causing anxiety, depression and poor impulse control.

How Do Devices Affect Sleep?

Digital devices contribute to poor sleep because they don’t foster deep, restful slumber. Numerous studies have found that screen time before bed leads to a delay in falling asleep, and shorter duration of rest.

The blue light from screens is one of the main culprits for disrupting sleep as it suppresses the release of melatonin, tricking the body into thinking it’s daylight. When children play games, watch stimulating shows right before bed or even chat with friends, they also lose out on the wind-down time needed for a peaceful night.

Kids with devices in their rooms may stay up long after parents think they’ve fallen asleep, and constant notifications interrupt sleep. If kids are spending all their free time on their iPad, phone or computer, chances are they’re not getting enough exercise, contributing to sleep problems.

Sleep deprived children may:

  • Struggle to get up in the morning. They will still be sluggish after they’ve had time to wake up.
  • Are frequently grumpy, tired and irritable for no obvious reason.
  • Experience anxiety and depression which worsens as their sleep deficit grows.
  • Fall asleep during the day. It’s a major warning sign is if your child’s teacher contacts you to advise your child has fallen asleep in class.
  • Drop behind at school and achieve lower grades.

What’s the Solution?

While sleep deprivation is a real issue, the good news is there are many simple ways to address it. The most obvious and effective one is to limit screen time before bed. Experts recommend children have at least 90 minutes of screen-free time before the light is turned off.

You can help your child relax by reading together or watching television as a family. Blue light is less disruptive the further you are from the television. It’s also a good idea to remove devices from bedrooms at night so kids aren’t tempted to use them when they should be sleeping.

To encourage healthy habits, make sure kids exercise after school and maintain a regular sleep schedule. Good sleep habits are part of a balanced lifestyle. The start of the new school year is an ideal time to review your child’s screen habits.