by Theresa Sirois, Social Media Coordinator
Parents know how difficult it can be to ensure our children, especially our teenagers, are getting enough sleep. Growing children spend about 40% of their lives sleeping. This critical time is vital for both physical and cognitive development, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
These days, the culprit of most sleep loss is electronics. Televisions, computers, tablets, and cell phones have become a mainstay in our lives and are too often used as a wind-down activity before bed. The problem is that all of these devices emit light. Light is used as the main cue in regulating our bodies' circadian rhythm, which are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24 hour cycle, and act as our bodies' master clock. Because light can interfere with melatonin production, these devices actually end up impacting our hormone levels! The result- less melatonin production- makes us feel more tired than usual. Add to that, the emotional need to check the electronics near our beds and the end result- less sleep. It's a vicious cycle ending in far less sleep for our children than we were getting as kids years ago. This begets dangerous ground when we think about the implications of lack of sleep, especially during school.
A recent article from MindBodyGreen explains:
Mood is another area affected by rest. One study found that with an extra 27 minutes of sleep, teachers reported kids were more alert, well-behaved and in control of their emotions.
So how much sleep do our kids need? Recent suggestions from The National Sleep Foundation state;
- Newborns (under 3 months): 14 to 17 hours
- Infants (4-11 months): 12 to 15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10 to 13 hours
- School age (6-13 years): 9 to 11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17 years): 8 to 10 hours
If you're curious about your own sleep, the guidelines suggest seven to nine hours for adults (18 to 64 years) and seven to eight hours for older adults (over 65 years).
It is important that we limit use of electronics at or near bedtime for both our children and ourselves. MindBodyGreen suggests:
- Set a firm "turn-off time" for all electronics, and make it at least 30 minutes before bedtime. If your child is resistant to the idea, try moving turn-off time up gradually until they adjust.
- Offer reading, journaling, coloring or a warm bath as an alternative for winding down before bed.
- Since small screens appear to have the greatest effect, require that tablets, smartphones and handheld games be checked in before bed (and kept outside of the bedroom during sleep hours).
- Stick to a consistent routine at night; keep bedtimes regular and maintain consistent pre-sleep activities.
- Make sure rooms are dark, cool and beds are comfortable and healthy! Toxin and allergen free environments have a great impact on your quality of sleep. See our website for more details.
- Lead by example with evening electronic usage and healthy nighttime habits — it will help you sleep better, too.