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What does Smartphone Use Before Bed do to Your Child’s Brain

By Samantha Kent

We live in a world where information and entertainment flow like water. On one hand, our children can learn about any subject, read any book, or experience faraway destinations from the comfort of the living room. Smartphone use before bed is extremely common.

On the other hand, technological advancements go so fast we sometimes don’t fully grasp the consequences until damage has been done. Smartphones can make running errands with your child easier and provide a way to keep tabs on him when he’s away from home. They aren’t bad. However, when it comes to your child’s sleep, smartphones can get in the way.

How Screens Cut into Sleep

Depending on your child’s age, he may need anywhere from eight to fourteen hours of sleep for his body to grow and develop as needed. But, getting that rest requires following the body’s circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the repetitive biological processes that control your sleep cycle and largely base their timing off of light exposure.

Smartphones and other electronic devices can give off a bright blue light that’s similar to sunlight. That’s why screen time before bed can throw off your sleep cycle. Smartphone use before bed can really through things off!  Your brain gets stimulated by the light, which causes a suppression of sleep hormones and delay in the onset of sleep.

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A literature review published in JAMA Pediatricsasked the question “Is there an association between screen-based media device access or use in the sleep environment, and sleep quantity and quality?” After reviewing 20 studies that involved 125,198 children with the average age of 14, researchers found that screen time most definitely cuts into both the quantity and quality of a child’s sleep.

Interestingly, it wasn’t just smartphone use before bed that led to inadequate sleep, poor sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness. Access to devices had just as powerful of an impact on a child’s ability to fall asleep. Somehow, the thought that they could watch TV or play on the smartphone interrupted sleep just as much as having used the device.

What Can You Do?

For some children, limiting screen time may feel like losing a limb. But, as a parent, sometimes you have to make the hard decisions, like:

  • Turning It Off: The simplest solution is to turn off smartphones two to three hours before bed, giving the brain time to regulate the sleep schedule. While this one sounds easy, it might be a battle.
  • Switch Modes: Some smartphones have a nighttime setting that limits blue light. You’re limiting light exposure but the brain may still be stimulated by images or the content on the screen.
  • Increase Day Time Light Exposure: Make sure your child gets plenty of exposure to sunlight during the day. Time spent outside helps increase the amount of sleep hormones released at night, regulating the sleep cycle.

Screen Free Sleep Environment

You can also help your child by creating a comfortable, screen-free sleep environment. A mattress that’s supportive without tags or lumps can help him get comfortable. You can also make sure the room is as dark as possible to help support your child’s circadian rhythms.

Adequate isn’t a luxury, but a necessity. Your child’s immune system, appetite control, energy levels, and metabolism rely on sleep to function normally. As you help him get the rest he needs, your setting him for sleep success and better health for the rest of his life.

Smartphone Use Before Bed

Knowing what Smartphone Use Before Bed does to Your Child’s Brain will help you make the changes your child needs. Don’t forget that this advice also affect us adults to.  It’s always great to cut out screen time an hour before bed so we can get a restful, much needed sleep!

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Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.

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