Does screen time before bed affect sleep?
Blue light, which is transmitted from screens such as smartphones, laptops, and TV sets, has been shown to interfere with your body’s natural melatonin production, shutting off the “sleepy” signals it sends to your brain before bed. This blue light exposure makes it harder for you to settle at night, keeping you awake for longer than you should be.
How long before bed should you turn off screens?
Reducing screen time before bed for young children
Many families enjoy settling down to watch a good movie, or their favorite series in the evening. Once movie night’s over, though, try to give your family some space and time to relax before it’s the moment to hit the hay. If you have a regular bedtime for your kids, agree on a time that you as a family should turn the TV off for the night. If you’re in for a one-off movie session, start earlier than you normally would so you can ensure that precious hour of screen-free wind down starts after the credits roll.
Using a screen time tool is a great way to keep your family focused on daily routines. Qustodio allows you to create a screen time schedule for your children, where hours in the day are blocked out – for example, from 9pm to 10pm. During this time, they won’t be able to engage with their connected devices. For the path of least resistance, you could even make this a rule for the whole family, putting away your own devices and concentrating on family time together before bed.
If you’re introducing a “no screen time before bed” rule, you may want to consider trying new activities that help you bond as a family and which allow your kids to wind down before they nod off. Reading a story together, writing a journal entry, or relaxing with a guided meditation or yoga session could be an excellent way of signaling it’s time to rest. These wind-down activities could then serve as excellent relaxation tools for your kids as they grow and become more independent.
Reducing screen time before bed for teenagers
If your teenager is a serial scroller during those early morning hours, one option could be to create a device-free environment. Keep TVs, tablets, cell phones and even laptops out of their sleeping space – either round the clock, or past a certain time in the day if they prefer to do schoolwork in their room. Even if your child has a limit on screen time in the evenings, the simple fact that their cell phone or laptop is with them in the room adds the extra temptation to reach for it if they wake up during the night.
It’s a good idea to explain the reasons behind why screen time at night is a concern, rather than simply imposing new rules “for their own good”. Help your teenager understand the science behind how technology use affects their sleep, and why you care about it. Instead of just setting a rule, talk to your teenager regularly about how their device use makes them feel.
Asking them questions such as “When you stay up and scroll on your phone at night, how does it affect you the next day?”, or “How does it make you feel if you’re without your phone for several hours?” could encourage them to be more mindful of their device usage and the consequences of their technology habits.
Screen time isn’t just limited to the bedroom. Maybe your teenager doesn’t have a structured or set bedtime routine (if you can, it’s a good idea to encourage them to have one), but it’s recommended to limit device usage in the hours before bedtime, wherever they are in the house. This will reduce their exposure to blue light and help signal that it’s time to wind down for the night.
For an easy way to set screen time limits that the whole family can follow, try a parental control tool that restricts device usage during certain times of day. By using a tool that applies the same rules daily, you can forget about looking at the clock or accidentally allowing your child to run over their limit – this can all be taken care of in the background!
No matter your child’s age, you’re often the example for model behavior, so it’s a good idea for your entire family to become more mindful of how you use devices before bed. If you’re blocking screen time on your child’s devices before they go to bed, set your own phone or laptop down during that time, so they see how you engage in healthy screen time habits yourself. Turn the TV off after a certain time each day, and leave your cell phone out of the bedroom – whatever helps your teenager recognize the effort you’re putting in as a family to reduce screen time before bed, and enjoy better quality sleep.
- Set a regular bedtime routine for your kids. By going to bed at roughly the same time every day, and by following a more structured routine, they know what to expect and will (hopefully) fall asleep more easily.
- Regularly spend time outdoors in natural light. This will encourage them to feel more alert during the day, and sleepier at night.
- Avoid nap times, except in very young children. If your child no longer needs a specified nap time, encourage them to avoid napping during the day so their bodily clock isn’t affected by midday sleeping.
- Get moving! Regular physical activity and exercise helps improve mood, stress, and increases the chances of getting a good night’s sleep.