Sleep plays a pivotal role in a child’s development. One of the top disruptions to good sleep for kids, however, is screen time. Devices like tablets, phones, and TVs can easily sneak into our kiddos’ pre-bedtime routine, but the Sleep Foundation says, “…[S]tudies have shown these devices can interfere with sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin, a natural hormone released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for sleep. This leads to neurophysiologic arousals that increase feelings of alertness when you should be winding down instead.” Clearly, good sleep and reducing screen time go hand-in-hand. So let’s look at some ways you can establish consistent bedtime routines and, in turn, develop better sleep habits for our kids.
Keep Electronics Out of Bedrooms
The American Academy of Pediatrics says having electronics in your kids’ bedrooms is detrimental to their sleep. Consequently, a good way to promote good sleep for your kids is to make their bedroom a screen-free zone. This helps them psychologically associate their room with sleeping and makes it easier for them to get into “sleep mode” each night. Putting limits on screen time before bed can be difficult, though, so if your child is used to having their tablet in their room or playing on a screen before they go to sleep, be sure to make the transition gradually.
Pick a Different Way to Wind Down
If your child’s current favorite way to wind down is watching a TV show before bed, the screen time will definitely affect their sleep. Instead of TV, try winding down with your child a different way. You could draw a soothing lavender bath and let them play in it with the lights low or you could have them pick a stack of books to read together while you snuggle up in bed. Give their bodies and their minds a chance to relax and slowly unwind in the evening. Do this each night so they will come to expect it.
Have Your Child Avoid Electronics During the Second Half of the Day
If your little one has trouble settling down and falling asleep at night, you may consider turning all screens off several hours before bedtime instead of just limiting evening use. Around 2 or 3 pm, turn off the TV and put away video/handheld games, phones, and tablets. This way your child has plenty of time to unplug and unwind before trying to go to sleep. Your child may balk at first, especially if they’re used to watching shows in the afternoon or playing on a tablet while you make dinner. But limiting afternoon screen time might just be the first step to healthy, consistent bedtime routines for your kiddo.
Be Cautious of the Content Your Child Is Consuming
Some children are incredibly sensitive to violence in shows and video games and have a difficult time getting good sleep if they’ve seen disturbing images throughout the day. This is especially true for highly imaginative children. If your little one is prone to night wakings and nightmares, double-check that the content they’re viewing throughout the day isn’t to blame and cut out any shows or games that might be keeping them up at night.
Sleep gives our kids’ bodies a chance to rest from the activities of the day and gives their brain time to grow. If screens disrupt our kids’ sleep patterns, they are going to have a harder time regulating their emotions, become more irritable, and will be more prone to getting sick. So give your child the gift of sleep by taking screens out of their bedtime routine. Perhaps even replace some of that time with a one-on-one connection with you instead.