Guest Post by: Alicia Sanchez
Kids and teenagers need a lot more sleep than most of them get. Teenagers, particularly, need to get at least 9 hours of sleep a night to feel well rested and alert. They need this much sleep in order for their bodies and minds to keep up with all of the changes and growth that they are going through on every level
However, 40 percent of teenagers report feeling sleepy most of the time because they do not get enough sleep. There are a lot of reasons why kids don’t get as much sleep as they should, from school requirements to extracurricular activities to socializing with friends. Another reason that you might not have had to deal with as a child is their access to smart phones and tablets, which can cause many problems when it comes to your child’s sleeping habits
Blue Light Suppresses Melatonin Release
Smartphones and tablet screens produce blue spectrum light like LED lights, which is brighter than many of the yellower lights you will see. This light helps to boost attention, reaction times and improves mood when you are enveloped in it. All of those sound positive, but trigger to boost your attention is the same one that suppresses the release of melatonin in your brain which helps you to sleep. All light does this, technically, but blue light is more than twice as effective at suppressing melatonin than green light.
Delay Sleep Routine
If you find your child on their phone during the night, it could be that they are using it in the same way that you might have hidden the book under your covers with a flashlight as a child. In fact, they might be reading a book on their phone or tablet, but it’s not any better for them than it was for you. Keeping their phones near their bedside can make it easier for kids and teenagers to stay up scrolling through Instagram and twitter, thereby disrupting the very important sleep routine and make it harder for their brains to start producing melatonin.
Another side effect of keeping their phones on their bedside tables is that they are more likely to check their phone whenever they wake up during the night. This further disrupts their sleep by forcing them to focus on the lights of their phone and whatever is going on on the screen. If they sleep with notifications on, those notifications may actually wake them up more often and cause more problems for their sleep cycle.
Exacerbate Anxiety & Depression
Between not sleeping properly and constantly having their phone in their hands, it’s not a surprise that more and more teenagers have issues with anxiety and depression. A 2013 study in Computers in Human Behavior found a correlation between cell phone use and anxiety.
The more anxious that your child is, the less likely they are to sleep well. The less they sleep well, the more anxious they are likely to be. If they’re struggling with anxiety on a regular basis, you may want to see if a weighted blanket will help them.
Talk to your child about their cell phone usage and about how to make sure that they are doing everything they can to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. You may need to set some new family rules to help enforce this lifestyle change on your child, but it’ll be good for you too!
Alicia Sanchez is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com with a specialty in health and wellness. A Nashville native, Alicia finds the sound of summer storms so soothing that she still sleeps with recorded rain on her white noise machine.