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Why Kids Should Skip The Screens Before (and During!) Sleep

According to a new study, the mere presence of a screen in the bedroom at bedtime increases the risk of inadequate sleep quantity in kids.

Kid With Phone in Bed Halfpoint/Shutterstock
My son has never been a great sleeper. In fact, most nights he falls asleep with both his TV on and his iPad clutched in his hands. But as it turns out, his go-to crutches for catching some Zs may actually be the reason he has so much trouble getting any. A new study has just revealed that using screens around bedtime resulted in poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness in kids between the ages 6 and 19.

Uh oh!

Of course, this news is really not all that surprising, given that the blue light emitted by phones, tablets, and laptops has been shown to interfere with sleep-inducing melatonin. But get this: The kids who had screens in their bedrooms and didn't actually use them—meaning, no blue light—STILL didn't sleep as much or as well as the kids without screens in their bedrooms. And they were more tired during the day, too!

So what gives? Apparently, just the mere presence of the devices is distracting enough to ruin kids' slumber. Why? Because in order to transition to sleep, experts say the body and mind need time to relax.

"You can't do a 100-meter sprint and then expect to go to sleep," explained study author and biostatistician Ben Carter of King's College. "Your body is racing. Likewise, if your mind is racing, you can't just expect it to switch off. It's an organ like all others."

Makes sense. Think about it this way: If your child posted a picture to Instagram before bed, she may be worrying about how many likes it's racking up, even after she turns her phone off. Or if your son was FaceTiming or texting with friends before unplugging, he might still be going over what was said in his mind, even though the phone is out of sight. I know I've done it! So perhaps that's part of the problem.

"I think we're obsessed with our devices," Carter said. "We should try to keep that obsession away from our children, especially at night."

Solid advice. Now...who's gonna tell my son?

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter