A Smarter Beginning 

Electronic Screens Disturb Sleep

November 12, 2013 / by Susan Sirigatti

Does your child have difficulty falling asleep at night? Maybe it’s because of the TV, computer screen and hand-held devices.

BLUE LIGHT: THE BOGEYMAN OF SLEEP

Unfortunately, a lot of the light we’re exposed to is blue light even though we don’t usually see it as blue. Electronic devices such as TV’s, computer screens, laptops, hand-held devices (smart phones, tablets, e-readers) use blue light. So do the new energy efficient lights (the curled compact fluorescent bulbs and LED lights). What this means is that we and our children are being exposed to it more and more.

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IS BLUE LIGHT DANGEROUS?

Studies at Harvard and at the U. of Toronto (www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2012/May/blue-light-has-a-dark-side/) have shown that blue light has a negative effect on sleep. By reducing the body’s ability to produce the hormone, melatonin, blue light disturbs the body’s clock, its natural circadian rhythm. This results in difficulty sleeping. In fact, in June 2012, the AMA published a warning that “exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents.” (ww.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/news/news/2012-69-19-ama-adopts-new-policies.page). In fact, blue light may also cause diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity.

EFFECTS ON CHILDREN

For our children, poor sleep may lead to fatigue during the day, lower levels of attention, concentration and memory, negative impact on learning and achievement, and even behavioral problems.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Well, you might insist on shutting down the computer and TV screen 2 or 3 hours before bedtime. But if that’s just not possible, perhaps because your child needs the computer for homework, try dimming the screen as much as possible during the evening. Also, don’t use blue night lights. Use red instead because red light has the least effect on the production of melatonin. And make sure your child sleeps in a dark room. This same advice goes for adults.

If the use of electronic screens is for some reason necessary at night, special glasses which block blue light can be bought online. Also, try to keep the screen as far from your eyes as possible.

Have you found a connection between electronic screen use and disturbed sleep in your kids? Why not tell us about it?

Photo credit: Sjurat Lozowick/Foter.com/CC BY-NC-ND

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