Sleep, or lack thereof, and technology often go hand in hand when it comes to school-aged kids. Nearly three out of four children (72%) between the ages of 6 and 17 have at least one electronic device in their bedrooms while sleeping, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey. Children who leave those electronic devices on at night sleep less — up to one hour less on average per night, according to a poll released by the foundation earlier this year.
Dr. Jill Creighton, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital says the key to a successful school year starts with Z’s. So parents, how can you power down your kids at night and make bedtime easier? Dr. Creighton shares her tips. “First — develop a nighttime routine,” says Dr. Creighton. Whether it’s a bath, reading a book or listening to soothing music, these actives will have a better impact on your child to help them relax before going to sleep.
Second — Power off! “The hour before bed should be a no-electronics zone,” says Dr. Creighton. Studies show that the light from backlit electronics (like tablets, smartphones and video games) can disrupt our ability to fall — and stay — asleep. Dr. Creighton says designate a spot in your home for electronics to be plugged in, then have your kids start their bedtime routine by plugging in one hour before lights out. Ban hand-held devices from the bedroom. “The burst of light from a phone (even if it’s just to check the time) can break a sleep cycle,” says Dr. Creighton. “A regular alarm clock is best.”
If your child has a slight addiction to technology and is resistant about turning off their device, try dialing down the screen time. “Reduce screen time by 30 minutes or more each week until you reach your goal,” says Dr. Creighton. “A good rule of thumb is try to limit recreational screen time to 60 minutes every day. And for every 30 minutes of screen time, make sure your kids get 30 minutes of physical activity.”
Try to replace screen time with an activity. “It’s sometimes hard to get kids off the couch and get them moving, especially if they think of physical activity as “exercise” or “boring,” says Dr. Creighton. “Parents, get creative and make moving fun for kids.” Some of Dr. Creighton’s ideas: a 20-minute family walk, 20 minutes of shooting hoops outside, walking the dog, going bike riding and doing chores (with the promise of an allowance) such as vacuuming, putting away laundry, raking leaves, shoveling snow and helping with the garbage/recycling, which are big favorites in her household.
Lastly, establish good habits. Being distracted by phones, hand-held devices and TV shows during mealtime cannot only lead to overeating, but additional unneeded screen time. And be a good role model. Parents, set a good example when it comes to screen time.
So how much sleep do your children need? General sleep guidelines from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute show that sleep time change as we age, but experts say there is no magic number for sleep, with individual needs varying.
- Newborns: 16-18 hours a day.
- Preschool-age children: 11-12 hours a day.
- School-age children: at least 10 hours a day.
- Teens: 9-10 hours a day.
- Adults (including the elderly): 7-8 hours a day.