Children Encouraged to Power Down Before Bedtime

ChildrenChildren should be encouraged to power down electronic gadgets and technology an hour before bedtime.  A new study shows that children using electronics in the bedroom have more difficulty falling asleep and experience daytime drowsiness more than those who do not. This comes from lead author, Teresa Arora, in a report sent via email to Reuters Health.

Using technology right before bedtime significantly decreases sleep quality in adolescents ages 11-13. This age group teeters between fighting sleep  and using of cell phones and tablets in the bedroom to stay abreast in the electronic world, when developing bodies facing puberty still need nine to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night to function at capacity during the school day.

Christina Calamaro, a researcher on adolescent sleep with Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, was not part of the study. “Parents need to be aware and set boundaries for electronic use,” Calamaro said. She puts out a call for those in the healthcare field to do more to impart the information to parents of the importance of children getting consistent uninterrupted sleep. She encourages parents to “model” sleep behavior.

Children that reported using social networking before bed report eight hours and 10 minutes of sleep, compared to nine hours and seven minutes of sleep that children who do not use electronics prior to getting into bed receive. With this information, children should be encouraged to power down electronics in efforts to reduce stimulation in preparation for bedtime at least an hour before lights-out.

Studies done earlier show a direct link to sleep loss. It exhibits in depression, obesity, difficulty in handling emotions, and results in mood swings. As recent as one month ago, a published Chinese study indicates not getting enough sleep raises the blood pressure in teenagers.

In the current study surveys on sleep and technology habits were examined by researchers who reviewed habits of 738 students from seven Midland England schools that were randomly selected, in 2010.

As reported in Sleep Medicine, youth who took in television programming before bedtime reported waking four times more than those who slept without watching television. Social networking caused youth to wake up three times more than those who fell asleep without technology.

“While teenagers sleep patterns and schedules experience a shift because they are alert later at night, technology has a pull that makes young users want to stay up later to keep abreast of interest that exists with gaming and social media,” note Arora and her research team.

Dr. Nanci Yuan, is medical director at the Sleep Center of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California. Yuan, says she was not at all surprised at the effect of technology on sleep habits of youth. Although,Yuan did not contribute to the study she says, “Sleep has to be a priority.” Her belief is that sleep has to be seen as a high priority just like good nutrition and exercise.

Children and teenagers are not little adults who can successfully get through the day with continued episodes of interrupted sleep. Parents are charged with the task of enforcing policy within the home that encourages best health practices. This includes, making sure children are encouraged to power down technology at least an hour before going to bed.

By C. Imani Williams

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