With the start of a new school year, it is important to be intentional about the need our teens have for restful sleep. Over the past several months, without a school routine, our family grew lackadaisical regarding bedtime and sleep routines. Now that our teens are back to school and alarms are going off at 5 AM, it’s time to reestablish night time routines and guidelines.
For starters, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages any screens in the bedroom. Among the many reasons for this advice is the negative impact that screens in the bedroom can have on sleep. For example, a 2015 research study found that using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, and other screens before bed:
- Makes you feel more alert as you try to fall asleep.
- Increases the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
- Interferes with your body’s internal clock (i.e., circadian rhythm).
- Suppresses melatonin, a hormone that plays a key role in promoting deep, restorative sleep.
- Decreases REM sleep, a stage of sleep that is critical for mind and body restoration.
- Makes you feel more tired when you wake up in the morning.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep over time. Despite these warnings, a 2019 study by Common Sense Media found that 68% of teens take their devices to bed and 29% of teens actually sleep with their phones in bed. To make matters worse, 36% of the teens wake up and check their phones at least once a night; not to see what time it is, but to check social media or respond to a notification.
Jim Steyer, the Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, writes, “With studies linking poor sleep to a number of mental and physical health problems, as well as diminished academic and cognitive performance, I urge parents to consider these findings as a wake-up call that device use might truly impact the health of their children and themselves.”
To help curtail these worrisome trends, parents can promote healthy sleep habits by:
- Establishing bedtimes that allow for the recommended amount of sleep.
- Avoiding screens an hour before bedtime and prohibit their use overnight.
- Keeping all screens out of bedrooms.
- Turning off all the household screens at night.
- Modeling your own healthy screen habits and sleep behaviors.
In addition to these tips, consider using phone settings and rules to limit screen time. For example, our family utilizes parental controls that turn our teens’ phones off at the same time every night. This automated feature sets clear limits, reduces arguments, creates the downtime they need before bed, and promotes healthy sleep throughout the night.