Turn off the tech early so kids get a great night’s sleep

Southport Visiter - - Family Health -

CHIL­DREN’S tech ob­ses­sion can be hard enough for par­ents to deal with dur­ing the day – but new ev­i­dence sug­gests they should be con­cerned about the ef­fect it’s hav­ing on kids at night too.

Re­search shows that the 40% of chil­dren aged be­tween six and 11 years who use mo­bile phones, lap­tops or tablets in the hours be­fore bed­time are get­ting around 20 min­utes less sleep a night than kids who don’t use tech in the run-up to bed­time. So chil­dren who use tech be­fore bed every night could end up with a sleep debt of around 121 hours a year.

The re­search, led by cog­ni­tive de­vel­op­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist Dr Anna Weighall from the Univer­sity of Sh­effield, in con­junc­tion with the Univer­sity of Leeds and Si­lent­night, ques­tioned 1,000 par­ents, and also found that on av­er­age, chil­dren slept 60 min­utes less if tech­nol­ogy de­vices were in the room, com­pared to those who slept in a tech-free zone.

“Tech­nol­ogy can ben­e­fit our lives in so many ways,” says Dr Weighall, “but par­ents need to be aware of the neg­a­tive im­pact it can have on chil­dren when it comes to sleep.

“The pres­ence of tablets and phones in a child’s bed­room, even if they’re switched off, can leave them feel­ing unset­tled.

“A 20-minute sleep debt may not seem a lot, but if you look at it over a year, or even through­out their child­hood years, you be­gin to see the sig­nif­i­cant im­pact of a tech-filled bed­time rou­tine. Hav­ing clear rules about the use of tech­nol­ogy close to bed­time is a small change that has the po­ten­tial to make a re­ally big dif­fer­ence to our chil­dren’s daily lives.”

When light lev­els drop in the evening, our cir­ca­dian timer switches on and stim­u­lates the pro­duc­tion of the sleep hor­mone mela­tonin, but the use of tech be­fore bed dis­rupts this nat­u­ral process, ex­plains Dr Ne­rina

Ram­lakhan, Si­lent­night’s sleep ex­pert.

Dr Ram­lakhan says screens on phones and tablets emit blue light which sup­presses the pro­duc­tion of mela­tonin and stim­u­lates pro­duc­tion of the chem­i­cal dopamine, which makes us feel alert.

“By es­tab­lish­ing a reg­u­lar sleep rou­tine, with­out mo­biles or tablets, chil­dren will sleep bet­ter, per­form bet­ter at school, and be hap­pier and health­ier as a re­sult,” she stresses.

“Con­cen­tra­tion and the abil­ity to learn can be se­verely af­fected by lack of sleep, so I urge chil­dren and par­ents to put down tech­nol­ogy at least 90 min­utes be­fore bed­time.”

The re­search also showed one in 10 par­ents feel un­able to en­sure their child gets the sleep they need. How­ever, child sleep spe­cial­ist An­drea Grace has these tips to help school-age chil­dren get a good night’s sleep: SCREENS OFF

TURN all screens off at least half an hour be­fore bath time and don’t have TVs or com­put­ers in the bed­room.

ROU­TINE IS VI­TAL

A CON­SIS­TENT bed­time rou­tine will help your child feel safe, and ready to sleep, although An­drea warns that par­ents with more than one child must be or­gan­ised.

EARLY HOME­WORK

TRY to get home­work done well be­fore bed­time. It’s nice to have quiet time to­gether be­fore bed, chat­ting or read­ing.

NO STIM­U­LANTS

AVOID fizzy drinks, choco­late or other foods con­tain­ing stim­u­lants. En­cour­age your child to have a nour­ish­ing evening meal which is rich in car­bo­hy­drate and pro­tein.

GIVE THEM A COMFY BED

MAKE sure your child’s bed and mat­tress are com­fort­able, and they have the right amount of bed­ding for the room tem­per­a­ture.

AT­TEN­TION PLEASE!

DUR­ING the prepa­ra­tion for bed, give your child or chil­dren your fullest pos­si­ble at­ten­tion, and try not to take tele­phone calls.

“As well as feel­ing safe, chil­dren need to feel loved in or­der to sleep well,” ex­plains An­drea, “so show your child how im­por­tant they are by giv­ing your time, even if that time is be­ing shared with sib­lings.” BATH THEN BED

HAV­ING a bath will only pro­mote sleep if it’s im­me­di­ately be­fore bed, oth­er­wise it may give chil­dren a sec­ond wind. So af­ter your child’s bath or shower they should go di­rectly to their bed­room rather than com­ing back into the liv­ing room.

DON’T USE BED­ROOMS AS PUN­ISH­MENT

CHIL­DREN need to have happy as­so­ci­a­tions with the room in which they sleep if they’re go­ing to re­ally re­lax and sleep well.

GIVE RE­AS­SUR­ANCE FOR

SLEEP PROB­LEMS

SCHOOL-AGE chil­dren can demon­strate a wide range of sleep dif­fi­cul­ties, in­clud­ing set­tling prob­lems, de­layed sleep on­set, wak­ing dur­ing the night and night­mares. An­drea says that with most sim­ple set­tling and wak­ing prob­lems, par­ents should work with their child to re­as­sure them and help them to go to sleep hap­pily and alone.

“It’s quite nor­mal for all of us to wake sev­eral times dur­ing the night,” she says, “and if you’re with your child when they go off to sleep, they’ll need to get you back to act as a sleep prompt at later wak­ings.”

DON’T LET THEM GET IN YOUR BED IF YOUR child is ac­cus­tomed to get­ting into your bed dur­ing the night, they’ll wake in an­tic­i­pa­tion of this move, warns An­drea. “Know­ing they’re go­ing to be mov­ing dur­ing the night ac­tu­ally pre­vents many chil­dren from be­ing able to sleep re­ally well,” she adds.

Us­ing tech at bed­time might end in a night of bro­ken sleep

Dr Ne­rina Ram­lakhan A few sim­ple steps should en­sure a healthy stretch of dream time Dr Anna Weighall An­drea Grace

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