Friday, March 13th, is World Sleep Day, a day “designed to raise awareness of sleep as a human privilege that is often compromised by the habits of modern life.”
As a pediatrician, I know how critical sleep is to a child. As a parent, I know you know this too. There is nothing like a toddler who missed her nap or a teenager who has only been getting six hours of sleep a night. But along with irritability and temper tantrums, sleep deprivation in children can have serious effects on their physical and mental well-being. Consider the studies cited in this report:
- “Short sleep duration (less than 10 hours per night by maternal report) and nocturnal awakenings (more than three times per night) in toddlers were associated with the development of behavioral and emotional problems at age 5.”
- “Sleep problems at age 4 have been found to predict a greater incidence of behavioral and emotional problems emerging by mid-adolescence.”
- “A large cross-sectional study of adolescents identified associations between short sleep duration and emotional problems, peer conflict, and suicidal ideation.”
Sleep is important for babies, toddlers, children, and adolescents. And what is one of the biggest modern-day culprits inhibiting our sleep?
Our phones, tablets, laptops, and televisions are detrimental to our sleep and sleep for our kids. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children who spend a lot of time in front of a screen “go to bed later, take longer to fall asleep and sleep fewer hours.”
Screen use just before bed and keeping electronic devices in the bedroom has a high correlation with poor sleep quality in children and adolescents and is associated with tiredness in children during the day. This is largely due to something called the “blue light effect.”
Electronic devices emit an artificial blue light that suppresses the body’s release of melatonin—our body’s sleep hormone. When this hormone isn’t released properly, it greatly affects our sleep. Not to mention what children see on T.V. or social media could produce anxiety just before sleep, waking their minds up when they should be shutting down for the night.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, children and screens just don’t mix, especially before bedtime.
This is the time of year when you might be considering spring cleaning your home. Might I suggest spring cleaning your sleep routine? Sleep hygiene is incredibly important but often overlooked.
When kids are whining about bedtime or teens are wanting to stay online for just a few more minutes, it’s easy to give in, especially in the evening when you’re already exhausted. But sticking to a good bedtime routine is one of the best ways to maintain sleep hygiene and one of the best things you can do for your child and her emotional and behavioral development.