Screen Time and Insomnia: What It Means for Teens

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Teens are easily addicted to electronic devices and love to label themselves “night owls”. But for teenagers, sleep is important for their health, emotions, grades, and sports performance. Too much screen time means too few ZZZs, and even insomnia.



Why do electronic devices keep you up?


Blue light is the chief criminal that harms your sleep. Screens, including TVs, computers, tablets, cell phones and video games, can emit a blue light that can be a strong signal to your brain that it is daytime. It not only interferes with the body’s natural internal clock, but also suppresses the release of the body’s sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.


Teens are troubled with insomnia and other health problems


The impact of blue light at night is greater on kids than on adults. They may experience problems falling asleep as well as difficulty staying asleep. As a result, these teens sleep fewer overall hours; over time, that sleep deprivation among teens is associated with increased risk for depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior and poor cognitive performance.



According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, 28 percent of teens ages 13-18 tried some type of medication to help them sleep. 16 percent said they tried over-the-counter sleep medicines, 14 percent said they used antihistamines, and five percent said they used prescription sleep medicine.


Teens with little sleep may risk other health problems. They may engage in risky behavior such as drunk driving, use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. In the long term, they even tend to attempt suicide. 



Help teens to have a better sleep


Help your child settle for sleep with a sleep environment that’s quiet and dimly lit. Parents can make the bedroom clean, uncluttered and dark, and require teenagers to leave their phones or other devices outside the bedroom.


Set a routine that includes regular bedtimes and wake times. Doing the same things in the same order an hour or so before bed can help children drift off to sleep.


Regular exercise helps teens sleep more soundly, as well as improving their general health. Teenagers should be aiming for at least 60 minutes’ exercise every day, including aerobic activities such as fast walking and running.



Given the extent of sleep deprivation worldwide, teenagers are suggested to turn off their electronic devices at bedtime, and leave their smartphones, laptops, and iPads outside the bedroom. By doing so, health problems caused by such harmful bedtime habits can be avoided.

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