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June 15, 2019 / Ideas

Screens and our teens - whether it’s computer, mobile, tablet or tv - it’s a symbol of our modern age, but what is the affect on their sleep and wellbeing?

There is no doubt our children are ‘digital natives’, who have grown up surrounded by digital information and entertainment on screens. With this comes a lot of talk around what affect this has on their well-being and sleep. The answer is not black and white. Research from the UK, USA and Australia doesn’t draw a direct link between screen time and lack of sleep, BUT, the indirect links absolutely do. Read on.

First, let’s start with SLEEP. The recommended amount of sleep for teens is between 8 and 10 hours every night. Survey data from Resilient Youth in 2016/2017 shows 48% of year 7 to 12 students self report that they are not getting at least 8 hours sleep each night. And 68% of year 7 to 12 students report using technology between 10pm and 6am. YES that’s right, between 10pm and 6pm. That may have something to do with those missing sleep hours?

Not getting enough sleep can lead to chronic sleep deprivation. This can have dramatic effects on a teens life, and can impact their mental health, wellbeing, anxiety, and low self esteem. It can also affect them academically with their ability to learn and perform in school.

But where do the screens come in? Some areas screen time can affect sleep in a teens life.

Running low on power – The more screen time, the less time for for physical activities, which are hugely beneficial to good sleep.

Content consumption — what content they are consuming on their screens in the lead up to sleep can have a huge affect on how active their brains are, when trying to wind down for the night. For example, exciting video games, dramatic or scary television shows, even stimulating phone and social media conversations, can engage the brain and lead to the release of hormones such as adrenaline.

Lights Out – The bright light emitted from screens has a huge impact on sleep and sleep-wake patterns and can increase alertness. The bright light can also disrupt their bodies natural circadian rhythms, by tricking the body to suppress the release of the hormone melatonin, which regulates our sleep patterns.

There is no hiding the fact our teens have an attachment and in some cases what feels like an addiction to their devices. According to a study by Vic Health and the Sleep Health Foundation, teens who put down their smart-phones an hour before bed gain an extra 21 minutes sleep a night, that’s one hour and 45 minutes over the school week There are already enough factors that contribute to teens not getting enough sleep, so creating a healthy relationship with screen time can only be a good thing in aiding better sleep habits.

3 things to help reduce screen time and improve sleep time

1. Screens off one hour before bed. Set limits.
2. No screens in the bedroom during sleep time (avoid the temptation through the night).
3. Model the behaviour – and set a good example – do as I do! (You might find you sleep better too)

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