For sleep health, it’s vitally important to reduce the amount of screen usage before it’s time to hit the hay. As the day gets later, our bodies produce more melatonin in order for it to be easier to go to sleep. With screen time before bed, melatonin production is suppressed making it a challenge to fall asleep. This is because screens emit blue light, which is detrimental if you are trying to get more rest. Your brain still thinks it’s day time!
For kids with special needs, this is 10 times more important to cut at night.
Not only does screen time affect sleep in children, new studies have been released saying that daily touch screen use can make it significantly harder for babies and toddlers to fall asleep at night. What’s more, with every hour of media usage a baby’s sleep is shortened by 15 minutes!
The bigger issue for children with special needs is that they are much more sensitive to the influence of these devices than we think. For any child with sensory sensitivity, they are experiencing that blue light much more intensely. For some kids, even cutting the screens before bed is just not enough.
Our kids cannot afford to lose their sleep
Sleep loss in children has been linked to major health problems like obesity, diabetes, mental health issues, and negatively affects brain growth and development. It turns out that there are actually structural differences in the brains of kids who use touch screen devices. And, kids that use touch screens 2 hours daily scored lower in language and thinking tests!
For children with developmental issues, their brain is already disorganized, and perhaps due to traumatic injury significant areas of the brain are not working.
So, touch screen devices can affect quality of sleep and brain growth. Not getting a good night’s rest can do the same thing. For kids with special needs, it’s a double whammy.
Your child needs to sleep in order to stay happy and healthy.
For children with special needs, they need good sleep to get the best out of school and therapy. When the brain is getting lots of stimulation from these activities, sleep quality will improve. However, if they are exhausted, they won’t be able to get the most out of those sessions.
Keep close track of your child’s screen time.
Set a cut off time in the evening and replace TV time with some outdoor play, reading, or quiet games. For any child with developmental issues, I recommend cutting screens at LEAST 1 hour before bedtime. If your child does have sensory sensitivity, this may need to be more time.
Also, depending on your child’s age review carefully the AAP’s guidelines to screen time. Parents must also remember that they need to be an example to their kids and put the phones or tablets away some time.
If your child does have some difficulty falling asleep and media usage has been reduced, establish a consistent bedtime routine so that their brain and body can wind down and know that sleep is coming.