“Tired kids are SO easy to deal with!” – said no parent ever. Which makes it so crazy to think of all the things we do that prevent kids from getting the proper sleep they so desperately need. There are many parents that don’t enforce bedtimes, don’t give children proper tools to wind down for the day, or over schedule them so they are never home in time to get to sleep.
In fact, in 2014, the National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll called “Sleep in the Modern Family,” to understand the sleep habits in American families with at least one school-aged child. Approximately 1,100 parents of children 6-17 years old answered questions about their sleep, their children’s sleep, and household rules around bedtimes. According to the findings, 90% of those surveyed said that their children slept less than the recommended guidelines. Also, it found that one of the biggest problems kids are facing getting enough sleep is due to the use of electronic devices at night.
There are many reasons why screen time before bed can make falling asleep at appropriate times difficult.
Screens Are Bright
If you have ventured through a home improvement store and wandered over to the lighting department, you will see that there are various temperatures for lights. They range from the bright blue undertoned daylight to the soft yellow toned warm lights. Most of the smart lights these days that offer the full spectrum of temperature recommend using the daylight setting in the morning, and the warm setting at night.
The reason the color temperature makes a difference is that your body is programmed to wake up to the sun and go to sleep when it sets. Since we no longer live outdoors and have lighting in our homes, this sleep schedule gets derailed. The warm glow of a sunset tells our bodies it is getting close to bedtime. Bright lights tell our bodies that it is time to wake up and be alert. The bright lights of the plethora of devices available to our kids can trick them into thinking that it is still time to stay awake, making it very difficult to fall asleep.
Screens Are Entertaining and Exciting
Right after an action movie, or a thriller, when your adrenaline is pumping, how easy do you think it would be to fall asleep? It would probably be pretty difficult. YouTube videos and other types of entertainment can be just as exciting and entertaining as the most recent action film that had you on the edge of your seat! I mean, have you seen Dude Perfect?
Videos become popular when they connect with us and make us feel emotions. Whether it’s excitement, fear, joy or any others of the plethora of human emotions we can feel. Accessing these emotions as you are trying to wind down for the day can be counter-productive, and lead to insomnia.
Screens Are Where Your Friends Are
I remember being a tween and teenager staying up for hours talking on the phone to my friends. The same friends I probably saw all day at school, and then hung out with after school. These days, the kids aren’t into the chatting so much, as they are texting, Snapchatting, messaging on Instagram and more. There are literally so many places your child can keep up with their friends, that there really isn’t enough time in the day to get to it all.
We live in a world of instant gratification, and nowhere is it more prevalent than the world of a teenager. If they put down the phone they could miss something IMPORTANT from their friends! “If I don’t answer this text right away, they might think something bad about me,” your teen could be thinking. They require the constant validation and interaction they receive from their friends on social media. Since they don’t want to miss anything, they could lose sleep just trying to stay updated on everything happening with their friends.
There are a few things you can do to help give your kids the best chance of falling asleep at the right time and allowing them to get the sleep they so desperately need.
Limit screen time during the day
Using an app like Boomerang can help you set appropriate time limits on your children’s devices. Some guidelines recommend children 13 and under have no more than 2 hours of screen time daily, and children under 5 should be reduced to 1 hour daily. When children are sedentary for the majority of the day at school or behind a screen, they are not using up the stored energy that their bodies have created during the day as they eat. At the end of the day, they still have too much energy to fall asleep, making it difficult. Limit their screen time during the day so they can get outside and play!
Establish a bedtime routine
When you do the same things in the same ways and then go to sleep at the same time every night, your body starts to adjust to the pattern. As you continue in your standard bedtime routine, your children will start to get sleepy during the routine, since their bodies are used to going to sleep right after the routine. Establishing this routine, and sticking to it exactly, is key to helping your children fall asleep right at bedtime. Some routine items can include reading a story, brushing teeth, telling each other about your day, etc. Just make sure you start each part at the same time every night, and your kids will be falling asleep quickly in no time. Read these 30 health benefits of sleep via Pillow Picker.
Eliminate screen use for 1 hour prior to bedtime
As we mentioned, the bright glow of the screens tell your body it is time to be awake and alert. Removing the screens for an hour prior to bedtime will help your body adjust to the night, and allow it to relax. You can set a schedule in Boomerang that will disable the device at a specific time every day, an hour prior to each child’s bedtime to help remove the temptation.
No screens inside the bedroom
Finally, make your children turn in their devices at night. Put the chargers in your bedroom, and plug them all in an hour before bedtime. This will eliminate any sneaking around checking for notifications in the middle of the night, or late night chats with friends.
Technology is great, and we love when our children are able to use it appropriately to further their education, social skills and more. Sleep is something so important, though, that we need to make sure we aren’t doing our children a disservice by allowing them to get less than they actually need. Just ask any new Mom if she thinks sleep is important… I think you know what her answer will be.