Screen Time and Sleep: What You Need to Know for the Whole Family

Reading Time: 3 minutesWe’ve all been there before, wanting to watch just one more Netflix episode, playing one more game, or five more minutes of surfing the web. But screen time and sleep do not go hand in hand. Screen time stimulates the brain during a period when the body should be winding down.

Katherine Bond-Webster talks about how screen time and sleep can affect the whole family and offers advice on how you can improve your families sleep.

How can you improve your familys sleep and does screen time really have that much impact?

Whether it’s working from home, school via Zoom or the use of game apps or fitness tracking apps – we are all spending far more time on screens these days. Time spent on devices often carries on into the evening when our bodies are in need of rest. The information overload and the type of lights from all these screens can impact the body’s ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and the overall sleep-wake cycle.

How does screen time disrupt sleep?

The way screens disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is that the blue light given off screens mimics that of sunlight. When it’s bright and sunny outside, we feel more alert but at night when it’s dark, the body produces a hormone (melatonin) that prepares us for sleep. Mobile phones, computers, iPads, television screens, and some e-readers give off blue light that is similar to sunlight. This type of light tricks the body into thinking it’s still daytime, causing a decrease in melatonin production and affecting your sleep cycle.

You may also be interested in: Better Sleep For The Whole Family

Screen time and kids

Research has shown that young adults and kids now average a massive nine hours of daily screen time. A good portion of this time is spent on schooling from home at the moment, which is somewhat unavoidable. Unfortunately, this increase in screen time can have a negative impact on sleep, which in turn impacts all aspects of our health, including immunity, digestion and mood disorders. Studies have shown a direct correlation of poor sleep on attention disorders in children and teenagers.

Not only does this affect sleep, it impacts us mentally and can also result in physical pain and discomfort including headaches, neck stiffness, back pain and digestive problems. Additionally, poor sleep can make us more sensitive to pain, which means that the little ache or niggle you have starts feeling worse due to the body’s inability to properly heal itself at night.

Other symptoms of screen use

The most common symptoms of prolonged screen use, other than sleep disruptions, include eye strains, headaches, neck and lower back pain. This is often due to poor ergonomics and posture which puts excessive pressure on joints and muscles, particularly when maintained in the same position for many hours.

Read more: Setting Screen Time Rules for Kids

Screen time and kids

What can I do to improve the sleep cycle of my family?

  1. Reduce blue light exposure as much as possible. Many devices now have settings where you can eliminate the blue light. Anti-blue light glasses are also available.
  2. Create a nighttime routine for the whole family that eliminates electronics at least one to two hours before bedtime.
  3. Take a warm shower, read a book, meditate or stretch before bed.
  4. Make the bedroom a technology-free sanctuary to avoid the temptation to send that last email or message!
  5. See an Osteopath. From an osteopathic perspective, taking an individualistic and holistic approach is essential. The musculoskeletal, nervous and even visceral systems are often areas that an osteopath will assess and treat. This can be done through both structural and cranial work, and then supported with supplementary advice to utilise at home. Mindfulness, mediation and exercise can all be beneficial in restoring sleep, and will be recommended appropriately by your osteopath. Providing your body with the tools to function as well as possible is important during stressful and difficult times. Do not hesitate to see what an osteopath can do to help you.

Katherine Bond-Webster is an osteopath available through Central & Stanley Wellness.

This post was sponsored by Central & Stanley Wellness Centre and first appeared in the Spring Edition of Playtimes 2021

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