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Can Screen Time Affect Sleep?

December 1    Written by Sophia Duhela

The pediatric use of screen time can be a polarizing topic.

As a mom, I will be the first to admit to utilizing screens in our home, especially when I’m trying to get something done.

I sometimes need to remind myself of its effects on the well-being of my children, but also give myself grace in knowing that there are times when it may be necessary to have a little more screen time than I’d prefer.

Today we’re going to dive into the effects of screen time and when/how you should utilize screen time for your (or your child’s) benefit.

The Effects of Screen Time On Sleep

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends no screen time for children prior to 1 year of age, no screen time for a 1-year-old, no more than an hour for a two-year-old (less is preferred), and for children 3-4 years, no more than an hour of screen time per day.

That’s…not a lot.
But these recommendations are for good reason.

Hale et al, in a recent literature review, summarize their findings: “In a recent literature review of (117) studies investigating the link between youth screen media use and sleep, 90% of included studies found an association between screen media use and delayed bedtime and/or decreased total sleep time.”

90% is a lot. A LOT of families are being affected by screens, and because it’s so normalized, we often don’t even realize how much it can actually affect our sleep and our overall well-being.

I’m not sharing this information to shame anyone or to make anyone feel guilty (stay tuned for how I utilize screen time in my own home!). I’m sharing this information to inform you so that you can make the best decisions for your family.

Here’s what we know to be true about pediatric sleep loss, partially due to screen time:

●  increased risk of childhood obesity
●  disrupted psychological well-being
●  impaired cognitive/academic functioning

Those are some major areas of life that can be affected. It’s important to note that there are things you can do, a few simple tweaks or changes you can make in your home, that can help everyone in your home better reap the benefits of quality sleep.

When and How to Utilize Screen Time

Screen time can also be beneficial for learning. If you’re offering screen time, it’s recommended that you view it with your child and choose highly educational programming.

We know it isn’t always possible to view with your child, so it’s crucial that you choose programming that is not scary or confusing for your child. If you’re not viewing with your child, it’s recommended that you are nearby.

In my household, we use screen time when I need to get things done or really need to focus on something. We will occasionally use it when we’re out at a restaurant waiting for the meal to come.

If you’re going to use screen time in your home, here are some tips for providing it in a way that doesn’t affect the quality of sleep your child will get that night:

  1. Limit screen time per the recommendations from the WHO according to your child’s age.

  2. Make sure screens are turned off at least 2 hours before bedtime.

  3. If viewing on a tablet, phone, or smart TV, make sure your blue/orange light settings are optimized for promoting sleep.

  4. Avoid having screens in bedrooms.

According to the literature review, “50% of parents endorse the belief that watching TV helps their infant, toddler, or preschooler ‘wind down’ in the evening.”

What we know about the blue light that’s emitted from screen use actually interrupts the release of melatonin, the hormone that tells our bodies to fall asleep.

There are definitely times when we watch more TV than what’s recommended (holidays, travel, etc.) and that’s okay. It works for our family. There are times when it’s okay to be more lax and when you need to tighten things up again.

Trust me, your children will show you if/when there’s too much happening!

Sleep Hygiene

When I work with families, one of the things we may need to look at is screen time, because, as you’ve read today, it certainly can affect your child’s sleep.

Together, I help families come up with a plan to optimize and set their child up for sleep success. Sometimes, this looks like being very strategic with when and how much screen time is being offered.

All in all, take what you know and make it work for your family – only you know what’s best for your children!

If you’re curious about working with someone on your child’s sleep, don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I’d love to work with you and you can learn more about my packages here.

Kind words from clients