These days, playing online games or watching shows on mobile phones is a common pre-bedtime routine for both children and adults. Considering the fact that excessive screen time does the exact opposite of having a cup of hot cocoa just before bedtime, it is no wonder that more than a third of lower primary school children are not getting enough sleep.1
Escaping into another world via your smartphone while lounging in bed may sound like a good way to unwind after a long day. But research has shown that screen time before bedtime can be detrimental to your child’s sleep. TOUCH Cyber Wellness shares why.
Delayed Sleep Time
It is harder for children than adults to be disciplined, voluntarily turn off their mobile devices and keep to their bedtimes. This is especially so when they are immersed in a show or online game, and stay up late into the night playing round after round or watching an episode after another. Hence, their bedtime is often pushed back.
Blue Light-induced Alertness
The screens of mobile devices emit short-wavelength artificial blue light. Exposure to artificial blue light for long periods delays your body’s internal clock and suppresses the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. This means that even after the mobile device is switched off, your child would still remain alert for a longer period then if he/she were to refrain from any screen time before bedtime.
Artificial blue light also affects your circadian rhythm which determines your physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm. Studies have also shown disturbances in our circadian rhythm may lead to brain cell changes, and cause sleep problems in the long term.
According to a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teenagers who engaged in more screen time before bedtime were more likely to experience insomnia. Greater amounts of each screen activity were associated with more insomnia symptoms and shorter sleep duration.2
Unhealthy screen time can be highly detrimental to your child’s health. Therefore, it is important for parents to inculcate healthy screen time habits in children. Here are some sleep-related screen time tips for parents:
- Ensure that your child does not use electronic devices for more than an hour at night before sleeping. Researchers at the University of Southern California found that the impact on melatonin suppression was insignificant after an exposure of 60 minutes, and considerable after 120 minutes.
- Have your child maintain a healthy distance between their eyes and the electronic device. Researchers at Aino University Junior College found that the distance from their eye to tablet screen had a significant impact on melatonin levels because the viewing distance determines the screen illuminance.
- Consider dimming the device at night or switching it to the Night Mode, to minimise melatonin suppression.
- Introduce other healthy pre-bedtime routines such as reading a book or listening to music.
We hope that this article has helped you understand the relationship between your child’s screen time and sleep. As you work on managing your child’s screen time habits with the tips we’ve provided, remember that you too need to be a role model and set an example for your child.
TOUCH Cyber Wellness (TCW) is a pioneer and leading non-profit agency that champions cyber wellness and media literacy education in Singapore. Since 2001, TCW has reached more than 320 schools and one million youths, parents, educators and counsellors through its education, advocacy and intervention efforts.
Want to know more on the latest online trends that may be affecting your child? Need to speak with an expert on your child’s mobile device usage habits? Get in touch with TOUCH Cyber Wellness here!
For more articles on cyber wellness, check out notAnoobie.online, an online cyber wellness resource for parents by TOUCH Cyber Wellness and Singtel.