Screen Time and Sleep


Dr. Connolly
An emerging problem for children today is the effect of screen time on their sleeping habits. Captain Darin, what can you tell us about screen time and sleep?

Captain Darin
Well, Dr. Connolly, research consistently suggests that more screen time results in less sleep time and worse sleep quality. This is true across screen types, whether it's a large television, a computer screen, or a small mobile device. And it's also true for all types of screen activity, whether it's something passive, such as watching a movie or TV show, or something interactive, such as video or computer gaming.

Obviously, screen time right before bed can cause the most problems, especially if your child has unfettered access to a screen, such as a TV or mobile device in their sleeping environment. Children may spend time with a screen in bed when they should be sleeping. This has the immediate effect of shortening their night because they go to sleep later.

In addition to reducing sleep time, the content on the screen can contribute to poor quality sleep. Video games, TV shows, and movies are all designed to stimulate the brain. This sort of stimulation right before bedtime can make it difficult for children to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The lights used in many screens can also harm a child's quality of sleep. The circadian rhythm is the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, and it's driven by a hormone called melatonin. Bright light from screens can disrupt the circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin secretion.

While allowing limited screen time can be a positive and healthy thing for your child's development, it's important to emphasize the "limited" part. Too much screen time can be detrimental to your child's sleep and overall wellbeing. Experts recommend that children under two years have no screen time at all. Children over two years should have no more than two hours of screen time a day. It's also recommended that parents keep screens of any kind out of their child's bedroom, and screen time should stop at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.