These days, it’s hard to escape from screens – we’re on phones, laptops, tablets, or watching TV all hours of the day and night. But what happens when we bring these screens into the bedroom? The effects of TVs on sleep for teens have been well documented – the light from the screen can prevent you from ever falling into a deep sleep, and repeatedly falling asleep with the TV on can create a habit, making it hard to fall asleep under any other circumstances. Using cell phones, tablets, or laptops at night can make it even more difficult to fall asleep. These electronics give off blue light, which can cause the body from releasing melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Even if you’re not looking directly at the screen as you sleep, the light in the room is enough to impact your body’s production of melatonin.
While the blue light can impact sleep for people of all ages, it’s particularly important for teenagers to reduce screen time at night. During adolescence, teenagers undergo a shift in their biological clock (also called circadian rhythm). This shift will make teens feel more awake later into the night, pushing their bedtimes back naturally. Combine this with late night usage of electronics, and teens may not be able to fall asleep until the early hours of the morning!
Many teenagers are already suffering from sleep deprivation due to early school schedules, extracurriculars, and homework, and adding blue light into that mix is probably not helping. So what can you do? Remind your teen that it’s important to disconnect from their phones and other electronics regularly. Set an example by powering down your electronics every night at least an hour before you go to bed, or start a no electronics in the bedroom policy. Even smaller changes, like placing your phone across the room face down while you sleep, can make a big difference too! Sometimes using electronics at night can be unavoidable – especially if your teen has a lot of homework or studying to do. There are apps that can reduce blue light on laptops, tablets, and phones, and some smartphones have a blue light filter that you can schedule to automatically turn on every night. Try out some of these tips to have a better night’s sleep!