This is NOT a post about how you shouldn’t let your kids use screens. For many families, screens are part of the way we learn, the way we relax, and increasingly, the way we socialize and keep in touch with loved ones.
This IS a post about minimizing the negative effects of screen use on your children’s sleep patterns.
How much sleep do my kids need?
Children need a lot of sleep to give their growing bodies and minds the time to repair and recharge after their full days. Many sources agree:
- pre-schoolers (ages 3-5) need between 10-13 hours of sleep each night
- elementary schoolers (ages 6-12) need roughly 9-11 hours per night
- teenagers (ages 13-19) need 8-10 hours per night.
These are hours of sleep, not just hours in bed. No matter how obedient your child is about staying in bed after bedtime, if they struggle to get to sleep they may not be getting the hours they need.
How electronic screens interfere
Research has found the blue light that screen devices (TVs, computer monitors, tablets, phones) emit fools our brains into thinking it’s daytime, and interferes with our natural release of melatonin (a hormone that causes sleepiness and helps us settle down for the night).
In addition, anything your child watches or does on a screen device that gets them wound up can stay with them, and lengthen the time it takes to finally fall asleep.
An important note: this isn’t just true in children. Screen use affects us all this way – so if you’re feeling tired, parents, this advice is for you too!
3 ways to win the screens vs. sleep battle
1) End “screen time” at least an hour before bedtime, to give the brain time to re-calibrate before it’s time to turn in. The longer you can make the span between screens and bed, the better-set you’ll be for a good sleep.
2) Watch to ensure your children aren’t ending the day with anything too exciting or adrenaline-producing. Consider turning down the lights an hour before bedtime, turning off all TVs and music, and making it “family calm-down time.”
3) Create a “barn” or “garage” or some other designated place where all the children’s devices spend each night (preferably, in your bedroom closet!). That way, they’ll build the habit as they get older, and you’ll be less likely to have battles about device use in the middle of the night.
Better-rested kids are healthier and learn better. And they’re more fun to parent. Sweet dreams!