Toddlers And Screen Use At Bedtime
In this media rich society where tablets and smart phones, televisions and computers and video games are so readily available, it is hard to regulate our toddlers use of media.
But this job is one of the most important jobs we have as parents
Having too much screen time at bedtime can have some serious effects on how much and how well our toddlers sleep.
- Watching a screen simply means you are not sleeping. When toddlers are watching screens, particularly when they are in their bedrooms, it means they are not sleeping and therefore their sleep will be cut short. There is lots of evidence that when televisions, games or screens are in bedrooms, sleep is much less and mush worse. We know of course that if we don’t get enough sleep many things can go wrong.
- Disruptions to our sleep hormone Melatonin. Melatonin rises at night when it is dark and stops rising when it is light. The cue to tip off melatonin that it is time to sleep is when the eyes perceive it to be dark. Screens have a lot of bright and intense light and indeed they contain more predominantly blue light, even though to the naked eye, that cant be seen. This light, and particularly this intensity of blue light and can trick melatonin, into thinking it is day light and so it will not kick in and this will delay sleepiness and therefore sleep.
- The content of what our toddlers are engaging with on their screen can be highly emotional and therefore alerting rather than calming. This includes exciting films or games, (films, videos), scary or nasty emotional message on television. Even watching the news can make some young people have difficulty getting to sleep because of the sometime very tragic content that is presented.
So due to the detrimental impact of screens…. Stop screen usage at least 30 minutes before bed and do something other that is calming….. this will give melatonin enough time to kick in and allow our systems to do what it does best, to naturally let our bodies get sleepy and fall asleep. You may even find that you enjoy that quiet personal time with your toddlers.
Instead have a soothing and gentle routine before bed and avoid screens, television in bedrooms and exciting play. Negotiate the routine with your child and make a deal. Give them choices about their routine and they will enjoy the experience better. If you think your child has a sleep problems, then seek help from your health professional. Good help is available.