One of my practice’s primary concerns is screen time, which is the hardest thing for parents to limit. In addition to the child’s strong desires to play—lets be honest—screen time gives parents those moments of peace and quiet they crave. But, why is it important to limit the parameters of screen time for our children?
We know that the blue light that our screens product suppresses melatonin (our hormone for sleep regulation), and low levels of melatonin can increase health risks. Studies have consistently shown the exposure to light at night has been linked to cancer (breast and prostate,) diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. For example, a Harvard researcher, Stephen Lockley, determined that light at night is a primary reason people feel tired, and can increase rates of depression and heart disease.
Additionally, blue light, in comparison to green light, suppresses melatonin for about twice as long. This poses a problem not only with screen time, but also with lamps and fluorescent lighting.
Our children’s brains are very sensitive to all this stimuli, as they are developing at a much faster rate. If you have a child that is very difficult to calm down at night, seems to be overly hyper, or bedtime can take over an hour . . . examine how much light he is exposed to at night.
Dimming lights two hours before bed is a good start. Also, nightlights can be a huge source of the blue light that impacts melatonin. Try looking at a Himalayan salt lamp, or use an orange bulb in their lighting.
If screen time at night cannot be avoided, some companies make glasses that filter out blue light. You can use these for family movie night, or on the nights you don’t have the energy to fight the screen time battle. Try to turn screens off two to three hours before bed.
Finally, utilize the sun during the day and take your kids outdoors! It will both help them establish a good circadian rhythm and provide them some vitamin D.
Behaved Brain Wellness Center
Healthier Kids – Happier Parents
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