Cell phones and screens are keeping your kid awake

Cell phones and screens are keeping your kid awake

For children and teens, using mobile phones, tablets and computers at night is associated with loss of sleep time and quality of sleep, according to new research. Even children who don’t use their phones or other technologies that litter their rooms at night lose their eyes closed and become drowsy in daylight, the analysis published in JAMA Pediatrics reveals today.

The analysis revealed “a consistent pattern of effect across a wide range of countries and contexts,” said Dr. Ben Carter, senior author and lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London.

Cell phones and screens are keeping your kid awake
Cell phones and screens are keeping your kid awake

Carter and his colleagues reviewed the medical literature to identify hundreds of applicable studies conducted between January 1, 2011 and June 15, 2015. They selected 20 research reports involving a total of 125,198 children, equally distributed by sex, with an average age of 14½ years. After extracting the relevant data, Carter and his co-authors performed their own meta-analysis.

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Few parents will be surprised by the results: the team found a “strong and consistent association” between the use of media devices at bedtime and an inadequate amount of sleep, poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Surprisingly, however, Carter and his team discovered that children who did not use their devices in their bedrooms still had their sleep interrupted and were likely to suffer from the same problems. The lights and sounds emitted by the technology, as well as the content itself, can be too stimulating.

Although Carter admits that a weakness in the analysis was “the way the data was collected in primary school: self-reported by parents and children”, many of us will likely recognize the habits of our own families reflected in the statistics.

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Electronic chamber

A large-scale survey conducted in the United States by the National Sleep Foundation (PDF) reported in 2013 that 72% of all children and 89% of adolescents have at least one device in their sleep environment. Most of this technology is used near bedtime, according to the same report.

According to Carter and his co-authors, this ubiquitous technology negatively influences children’s sleep by delaying their sleep as they finish watching a movie or playing another game.

The light emitted by these devices can also affect the circadian rhythm, the biological processes of synchronization of the internal clock, including body temperature and the release of hormones, explain the researchers. A specific hormone, melatonin, induces fatigue and contributes to the timing of our sleep-wake cycles. Electronic lights can delay the release of melatonin, interrupting this cycle and making falling asleep more difficult.

Cell phones and screens are keeping your kid awake
Cell phones and screens are keeping your kid awake

Carter and his co-authors also suggest that online content can be psychologically stimulating and keep children and teens awake long after the time they turn off their devices and try to sleep.

“Sleep is vital for children,” said Dr. Sujay Kansagra, director of the sleep medicine program in pediatric neurology at Duke University Medical Center, who was not involved in the new analysis. “We know that sleep plays a crucial role in brain development, memory, self-regulation, attention, immune function, cardiovascular health and much more.”

Kansagra, author of “My Child Won’t Sleep”, noted that the period of greatest brain development is in our first three years of life, which is when we need and sleep the most. “It’s hard to believe it would be a coincidence.”

Kansagra said it was possible that parents would under-report children using devices at night, but more likely, the technology simply interferes with sleep hygiene. “For example, children who are allowed to keep appliances in their rooms are more likely to avoid a good sleep routine, which we know is useful for sleep,” he said.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Dr. Neil Kline, a representative of the American Sleep Association, agrees that sleep plays an essential role in the healthy development of a child, even though “we do not know all of the scientific data underlying it. even has research that shows an association between ADHD and certain sleep disorders. ”

In many ways, the results of the new study are not surprising. “Sleep hygiene is greatly affected by technology, especially in adolescence,” said Kline, who bases his opinion not only on research, but on his own “personal experience and also on the anecdotes of many others. sleep experts. ”

Sleep hygiene – tips that facilitate good, continuous and adequate sleep – include a quiet bedroom. “And that would mean removing items that interfere with sleep, including electronics, television and even pets if they interfere with sleep,” said Kline.
Another important piece of advice comes from the National Sleep Foundation, which recommends at least 30 minutes of “gadget-free transition” before bedtime. Turn off for better sleep.

Other recommendations for good sleep hygiene include not exercising (physically or mentally) too close to bedtime; establish a regular sleep schedule; limit exposure to light before sleep; avoid stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in the hours before bedtime; and create a dark, comfortable and peaceful sleep environment.

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