Digital devices more likely to cause sleep disruption in children than in adults
The usage of mobile media devices seems to have increased in younger children as some form of digital media has also made its way into bedtime routines in the form of lullabys, bedtime stories, etc.
A recently published paper establishes how the use of digital media during the early years of development hampers sleep and growth in children. Monique K. LeBourgeois, the lead author of the study, believes that the study will reveal how even a little light can impact sleep and circadian rhythms in children. The purpose of the study is to provide science-based guidelines for parents. In the study, children were exposed to varying intensities of light and the changes in their melatonin levels and biological clock timings were gauged by studying their saliva samples.
According to LeBourgeois, light functions like the brain clock's primary timekeeper. Therefore, when the retina in the eye is exposed to light in the evening hours, it suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. This delays sleepiness and pushes back the timing of the body clock. Since children have larger pupils and their lenses are more transparent, their sensitivity to light is greater than in adults. LeBourgeois strongly recommends that parents limit the use of digital devices just before bedtime as it can help curb the adverse effect significantly.
Monique K. LeBourgeois, Lauren Hale, Anne-Marie Chang, Lameese D. Akacem, Hawley E. Montgomery-Downs, Orfeu M. Buxton.
Digital Media and Sleep in Childhood and Adolescence.
Pediatrics, DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-1758J