Teens, Sleep and Screen Time

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By Amanda Haney, MSW, LSW – May 29, 2024 –

How does screen time affect your child’s sleep patterns?

Sleep is important to growing and developing brains. According to the CDC, toddlers need 11-14 hours of sleep, preschool-aged kids need 10-13 hours, school-aged kids needs 9-12 hours, teens need 8-10 hours, and adults need at minimum seven hours per 24-hour time period.

Sleep is an important indication of overall physical and mental health. Several things can get in the way of a healthy sleep schedule, but in recent years screen time has been high on the list for school-aged children.

Our sleep cycle (circadian rhythm) mostly takes its cue from sunlight. Our brains register when we need sleep based on when it becomes dark. When our circadian rhythm is out-of-sync, it can lead to insomnia. According to sleepfoundation.org, smartphones, tablets, computers, television screens, and some e-readers give off short-wavelength blue light that is very similar to sunlight. The blue light from these devices not only makes individuals more alert but also prevents the production of melatonin in the user’s body.

Not getting the proper amount of sleep can cause school-aged children to struggle at home and at school. This can cause poor school performance, poor attitude, decrease in mental health, and conflicts in relationships. It can also play a part in students having the inability to self-regulate, which causes more issues that are disciplinary.

According to Afy Okoye on the website sleepdoctor.com, “Not getting sleep puts teens in a kind of haze. That can have negative effects on the way they think, react and learn. It also has an impact on their ability to control their emotions and get along with adults. Not getting sleep can cause traffic accidents and accidental injuries, and it also results in teens acting impulsively and recklessly.”

The average teen uses electronics more than seven hours a day, according to Dr. Michael Breus (https://sleepdoctor.com/teens/how-screen-time-affects-teens-sleep/). They use electronics for school, as well as personal devices such as tablets, cell phones and even televisions. When teens and school-aged children spend more time on their devices, it leads to them getting fewer hours of sleep each night.

Here are some tips to help students improve their sleep schedules and ensure they get more hours of sleep each night:

1. Set boundaries for screen time. Have a conversation with your child and let them know your limits.

2. Stop device usage at least an hour before bed. Have a set bedtime to make this easier.

3. Remove electronics from the bedroom.

4. Wear blue light-blocking glasses.

5. Set a schedule and time limit for daily usage.

6. Practice good sleeping habits. Lead by example. Show your children how you follow these rules to improve your own sleep habits.

7. Give options of activities that students can do in place of using devices, such as reading a book, coloring, journaling, or spending time with family.

Sleep plays a major role in our children’s physical and emotional health. Too much screen time influences the amount and quality level of sleep. Setting screen time limits for our children can help them improve their sleep health and overall well-being.