Screen Time Increase May Affect Sleep

Screen time late into the night changes us and affects our sleep.

Screen time with blue light stops melatonin production. Our children may engage in screen time as a social opportunity and feeling of connection as they snap-chat with friends, watch vlogs or game together. Video games are safe emotionally, they allow for continued stepping to the next level of play while repeating the very same path to get there. Life is not that easy. Vlogs allow individuals to become part of another’s life on a more personal level than television. And snap-chatting, since it disappears keeps you actively engaged for the next snap to appear.

Children with sensory needs often find solace in electronic devices, where they feel accepted, included and find friends within their Internet community. Yet, staring at a smartphone — or tablet, e-reader or laptop  — for too long can lead to tired, itchy, dry eyes, and even blurred vision and headaches. It has been reported the average smartphone is checked 150 times a day. Even Harvard Medical School writes about the blue screens dark side. Their recommendations follow (click to read full article):

Protect yourself from blue light at night

  • Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
  • Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.
  • If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
  • Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.
Blue lights may be sending you away from sweet sleep
Screen Time and blue lights may be sending you away from sweet sleep

Blue light insomnia from electronic devices may be affecting you and your children’s sleep.

A 2011 study by Gooley1 and associates found that “Compared with dim light, exposure to room light before bedtime suppressed melatonin, resulting in a later melatonin onset in 99.0% of individuals and shortening melatonin duration by about 90 min. Also, exposure to room light during the usual hours of sleep suppressed melatonin by greater than 50% in most (85%) trials.”

In a 2000 study, Zeitzer2 and his associates discovered exposure to as little as 100 lux of ordinary light (equivalent to an average reading lamp) resulted in a 50% decrease in melatonin production, forcing them to conclude that “the human circadian timing system is more sensitive to light than was previously thought,

Historically, since the dawn of man the sun provided our waking and sleeping cycles. In today’s modern world, you get your bright, blue light in the morning (preferably from the Sun), and use dim, longer wavelength light (more yellow and red like incandescent) in the evening. And sleep in the dark.

Have the changes in lighting and screen time made a difference in light sensitivity and resulting headaches and insomnia?

In recent years, we have increased on-screen time, changed our lighting systems and lessened our time outside in our communities.  Fluorescent lighting, sunlight and electronic device screens can make things worse for someone with light-sensitive eyes. In the retail, education or employment environment fluorescent lights can trigger migraines, cause headaches and eyestrain, and worsen other conditions. And those little “smart” rectangular boxes called mobile phones; tablets, computers, television, game and reading devices shine intense blue light into our eyes for many hours.

When working on teaching the people I love who have been prenatally exposed I have learned to research the areas where the professionals and top athletes go for help and support. Did these advanced performance individuals hold new keys to make a difference?

Research:

  1. Gooley, J. J., Chamberlain, K., Smith, K. A., Khalsa, S. B. S., Rajaratnam, S. M. W., Van Reen, E., … Lockley, S. W. (2011). Exposure to Room Light before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset and Shortens Melatonin Duration in Humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 96(3), E463–E472. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2098
  2. Jamie M Zeitzer, Derk-Jan Dijk, Richard E Kronauer, Emery N Brown, Charles A Czeisler J Physiol. Sensitivity of the human circadian pacemaker to nocturnal light: melatonin phase resetting and suppression. 2000 August 1; 526(Pt 3): 695–702. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7793.2000.00695.x PMCID:  PMC2270041.

Don’t miss our full blog series on visual processing starting with our introduction. Or check out some of our books that walk families through the journey of neurodevelopment.

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