There is a growing epidemic of tired and sleep-deprived kids in the U.S.
and research shows a major cause is the gadgets that have become a universal
part of going to bed.
Night time exposure to blue light—mainly from computers, smartphones,
tablets and e-readers—prevents the release of melatonin, the hormone
that tells the body when it should sleep. Children and teens are particularly
susceptible; even when exposed to just one-tenth as much blue light as
adults, teenagers suppressed more melatonin.
The effect, explains
Bertrand De Silva, MD, a respected expert in sleep and health issues at
St. Jude Medical Center, is to literally reset a child’s body clock. “Blue light therapy
is often used to treat sleep disorders because of its ability to shift
the sleep-wake cycle to earlier or later,” he explains. “Each
night children and teenagers are effectively administering blue light
therapy to themselves, making it impossible to fall asleep and wreaking
havoc on their sleep pattern.”
It'll make you unpopular, but limit your young child's entertainment
screen time to
2 hours or less per day.
The result is a vicious cycle of a 3 a.m. bedtimes, waking up sleep deprived,
too many caffeinated drinks, followed by more blue light therapy. The
consequences go far beyond dozing in class. “Chronic sleep deprivation,
which for teenagers means less than 8 or 9 hours of sleep, is a major
cause of hyperactivity, poor school performance, depression, anxiety and
outbursts of anger,” explains Dr. De Silva, board-certified in sleep
medicine, internal medicine, pulmonology and critical care. “Lack
of sleep is also a major factor in obesity, high blood pressure and other
Several free apps are available that automatically warm up the colors on
your various screens – more reds and yellows and less blues –
at sunset and returns them to normal at sunrise. Reducing the blue light
means some vibrancy is lost, which is not a bad thing says Dr. De Silva.
“In the two or three hours before bedtime, try to minimize computer
or tablet use to what is necessary to complete homework. And once in bed,
encourage your child to read books with paper pages, not electronic ones.”
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Do your children have a harder time sleeping if they've been on their
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.