Eleven different studies found that kids sleep better without their electronic devices. Researchers report, 72% of all kids and 89% of adolescents have at least one mobile device in the bedroom, and most of them regularly use it before bedtime. As a result they often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, as well as daytime sleepiness.
I know about this problem personally from my practice, so I’m not surprised. Nor will these findings be to any parents who face arguments at bedtime every night with their kids who won’t shut off or sneak back to games, videos and social media. Then parents also must struggle with extended arguments to get groggy kids out of bed in the morning.
Research has already shown that the young brain is not suited to early rising, but school and parent’s work schedules demand that they wake up earlier than suited to their developing brains. The addictive nature of electronic media makes this bad situation worse. Reports of kids falling asleep in school and in my office when I take a moment to talk with their parent are all too common.
A good night’s sleep for kids was defined for study purposes as falling asleep relatively easily, staying asleep throughout the night, and only waking up after nine or 10 hours of rest. They found that while 31.5% of kids who do not have mobile devices in their room reported that they don’t get enough hours of sleep a night, 41% of kids who have access to a device and 45.4% who use their devices just before bed had sleep difficulties.
The quality of their sleep was also affected. 44% of kids who simply had a device in the sleep environment and 52% of kids who actually used a device before going to bed had reduced quality of sleep.
The following problems arise for children with sleep deprivation or poor quality sleep:
- mood swings
- depressed mood
- a decreased attention span
- memory problems
So while it is no guarantee a child will not have sleep problems if they have or use no electronic device in their bedroom, there is a better chance of a good night sleep without them. So lock them up elsewhere in the home well before bedtime.
Here is a list of other steps from Dallas pediatrician Vincent Iannelli, MD for how parents can help their kids get a good night’s sleep.
- Restrict time spent in bed to simply sleeping, i.e. no reading, doing homework, or watching TV in bed.
- Have a very consistent schedule of when your child goes to bed and wakes up, including for weekends and holidays.
- Teach your child about relaxation techniques, including diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visual imagery, which he can use when he is going to sleep. (All these tools are available at my office.)
- Stop stimulating activities 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, i.e. playing video games, watching TV, or talking on the phone.
- Avoid any type of caffeinated drinks.
- Arrange for your child to get regular physical exercise.
- If problems continue seek help from a counselor or child psychologist, in addition to your pediatrician.
If you believe you or someone you love is seeking counseling, contact me.