Health Matters

Less TV, More ZZZs for Kids

We all need sleep to restore our bodies and minds. This is especially true for kids and teens, who need more sleep as their bodies develop. In an age when time we spend in front of a screen is on the rise, the amount of sleep we get tends to suffer the consequences.
 
Sleep expert Dr. Heidi Connolly says limiting the use of any electronics—including TV—throughout the day will help kids transition when it’s time to go to bed. And it will help maintain their natural circadian rhythm—their sleep-wake cycle. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics supports the link between fewer hours of screen time and more hours of sleep.
 
Health Matters: How does the use of electronics, like watching television, affect sleep? 
 
Connolly: Our pineal gland (a small endocrine gland located in the center of the brain) creates melatonin that works to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin causes drowsiness and the light exposure from electronics and television screens actually suppresses the ability for this to happen. The amount of melatonin is supposed to peak when you’re going to sleep, but your brain begins to shut it off when exposed to light.
family playing board game
 
Health Matters: What can parents do to prevent this from happening?
 
Connolly: There are several ways to help a child’s overall sleep pattern: 
 
  • Limit electronics: Screen time--including watching television, being on a cellphone, computer, iPad, etc.--should be limited to less than two hours a day, with no use one to two hours before bedtime. Although use of electronics is being seen with kids younger and younger in age, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding media exposure with children under the age of 2.
  • Make a transition: Many kids have a habit of going from being energetic during the day to then sitting in front of the television for the evening. Families should aim to add a board game or other low-level activity into the nightly schedule to help the transition from being active to resting.
  • Set a nightly routine: Setting a bedtime routine with your child is important. It allows their body to start to calm down and get ready for bed. Having a consistent schedule with the same elements (having a snack, brushing teeth, reading a book) will signal that to happen.    
 
 
Heidi Connelly MD
 
 
Heidi Connolly, M.D., is the chief of Pediatric Sleep Medicine at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. She is an associate professor of Pediatrics and Psychology.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lori Barrette | 4/24/2014 | 0 comments

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About the Blog


 

Welcome to Health Matters, a blog aimed at keeping you and your family healthy. We offer advice from URMC experts on timely topics, as well as insight into breaking news and medical research. Visit us weekly for updates and invite your family and friends to check us out. If you have a topic you’d like to see us cover, please send a note to Lori Barrette.

Though health advice offered here is provided by experts, there is no substitute for the personal care your own provider can offer. If you have medical questions or concerns, please contact your physician.


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