Cell phones prevent sleep, which may explain your child’s fatigue during the day. Cell phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops and televisions are all guilty culprits in robbing their evening users of quality sleep time.
The Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics recently published findings from a collection of sleep studies that were conducted on children and teens to determine the effects of electronic device use on their amount and quality of sleep. The studies concluded that cell phones prevent sleep, as do other mobile devices that require users to view their screens. The explanation goes beyond your child’s desire to stay up just a little longer to play one more round of their favorite video game or to watch a show that airs later than an ideal bedtime. While such mentally stimulating engagement plays a factor, there is another commonality that all devices with screens, including televisions, share. They all emit blue light.
The electromagnetic spectrum is a collection of waves, including light waves, which vary in length and in the energy that they emit. The shorter the wavelength is, the more energy it puts out. Blue light waves are the shortest of the visible light waves, so they emit the highest level of energy. Exposure to this energy promotes alertness and mood enhancement. Natural blue light is present in the environment, and exposure to natural blue light during the day helps to establish your body’s cycle of sleeping and waking hours. This cycle, known as the circadian rhythm, is essential in ensuring that you get adequate and quality sleep for your body to rest, recover and rejuvenate. In children, this nightly ritual is imperative for growth and development. In order to achieve a productive night’s sleep, however, darkness is required to prompt the body’s natural production of melatonin, which plays a role in conjuring drowsiness and promoting sleep. Cell phones prevent sleep because as your teen continues to text while lying in bed, the artificial blue light that the smartphone is emitting is preventing this natural process.
Artificial blue light emits from televisions, tablets, computers, cell phones and even LED and fluorescent lightbulbs. Dr. Ben Carter, the author of the published research study results, expressed concern regarding the growing trend of necessary electronic media device use in children’s lives. For example, school textbooks are being replaced with digital variations. Dr. Carter is calling on all teachers, health care workers and parents to take steps together to preserve the younger generation’s sleep,
“It is imperative that teachers, health care professionals, parents and children are educated about the damaging influence of device use on sleep.”
Leading by example is an approach that all parents may want to consider. Children and teens are not the only ones who are losing sleep to the digital age. Blue light affects adults in the same manner. The National Institute of Health sleep recommendations advise that children sleep for 10 hours, and adults should snooze for 7 to 8 hours each night. If you and your children are not racking up those hours of quality sleep, take action together. Keep offending devices out of the bedroom. Just because your teen is not actively writing a post for social media does not mean that the smartphone will not disrupt sleep when a notification chimes through. The National Sleep Foundation suggests halting the use of mobile devices and televisions 30 minutes prior to bedtime to unplug from their effects on sleep. Consider recording favorite television programs with later air times for weekend viewing.
To improve the amount and quality of your child’s or teen’s sleep, establish a set bedtime to ensure that he or she clocks in those 10 hours of sleep. Your child should avoid sports activities, fitness workouts and vigorous play before bedtime, and caffeinated beverages, which include colas, should be avoided as well. Keep the bedroom at a slightly cool temperature, and the room should be dark to get those melatonin juices flowing. Better sleep will improve your child’s mental focus, immunity and overall well-being. Don’t let cell phones prevent sleep in your child. Starting tonight, insist that they bid goodnight to the blue light.
[Featured image by Andrey Popov/Shutterstock]