Kid Sleep’s Altered By Screen Emissions

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Your child's night waking may be related to that screen time he gets just before bed.

It never fails. As bedtime nears, you look for ways to settle your child down, too. All too easily you hand over the remote or tablet to let him watch his favorite show before bed. But did you know that may be the reason why he’s not sleeping right? 

As hard as it may be to stop your child from watching TV or playing on his tablet before bed, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) says it’s important to make them do so.
    “The blue light that’s emitted from these screens can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later schedule,” says NSF. “This is an especially big problem for teens whose circadian rhythms are already shifting naturally, causing them to feel awake later at night. The end result: sleep-deprived or poorly rested kids who have essentially given themselves a mini case of jet lag.”

READ MORE: Kid Sleep: Fast Tips — Better Nights At Last!

That includes reading from an electronic, too. But it’s not just the blue light from TV and electronics. The NSF says light from fluorescent bulbs and LED lights can produce the same effect. So, it’s a good idea to check those nightlights!

When to Turn Off TV & Electronics

A couple hours before bedtime will do the trick.
    “Normally, the pineal gland in the brain begins to release melatonin a couple of hours before bedtime, and melatonin reaches its peak in the middle of the night,” reports the NSF. “When [you] read on a blue light-emitting device (like a tablet, rather than from a printed book) in the evening, it takes them longer to fall asleep; plus, [you] tend to have less REM sleep (when dreams occur) and wake up feeling sleepier — even after eight hours of shuteye.”

NIGHTLIGHT TIP: The NSF says to use a dim red light in the room because of it’s higher wavelength and the fact that it doesn’t mess with the release of melatonin.

With that in mind, have your kids power down their electronics, including the TV, an hour or two before bedtime. This gives their bodies more time to start producing more melatonin. Local mom Kathleen Jones agrees that you shouldn’t fall asleep watching TV. If you’re child is really engaged in a show, she says you should still turn the TV off. “Stop the show,” says Jones. “Our [child] never falls asleep with eyes glued to the TV.”

But, we know how difficult it is to break a child of a bad habit. So, if task proves to be more difficult or maybe even impossible to do, then dim the brightness on the screen. Some electronics offer a light swap that switches the colors to have a more red or yellow tint.

Local mom Amanda Morford Pulliam has a good tip for kids who want to watch TV before bed. She says to stop TV watching before the bedtime routine starts. “Go ahead and stop the show,” says Pulliam. “We stop TV before bathtime — we have three kids to cycle through the bath. So that’s about one-and-a-half hours before bedtime. Then books, then bed.”

Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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