Here’s how electronics are affecting our body clocks

Here’s how electronics are affecting our body clocks

According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 30 percent of preschool-aged children and over half of school-aged children and adolescents do not get as much sleep as they may need.

Could the increased use of digital devices be making this worse?

A new report published in Pediatrics reviews a number of studies to show that children are more susceptible to the effects of screen time before bed due to the ongoing development of their eyes, brains and sleep patterns.

“The vast majority of studies find that kids and teens who consume more screen-based media are more likely to experience sleep disruption,” says first author Monique LeBourgeois, an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder, in a news release. “We wanted to go one step further by reviewing the studies that also point to the reasons why digital media adversely affects sleep.”

What they found was children’s eyes were more sensitive to the light and its impact on circadian rhythms.

“Light is our brain clock’s primary timekeeper,” LeBourgeois says, explaining that when light hits the retina in the eye in the evening hours, it signals the circadian system to suppress the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, delaying sleepiness and pushing back the timing of the body clock. “We know younger individuals have larger pupils, and their lenses are more transparent, so their exposure and sensitivity to that light is even greater than in older individuals.”

The blue light that his produced from hand-held devices was found to be particularly strong when it comes to suppressing melatonin.

“The worst thing about this is that the habit of being on ‘screen time’ until you literally fall asleep is so common with parents that many do not even consider that it is bad for their kids,” says Dr. Aaron Traeger, pediatrician with Advocate Children’s Medical Group in Bloomington, Ill. and Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.

“But the research shows over and over that it is detrimental to their kids sleep,” Dr. Traeger continues. “Remember, the habits formed now, the pattern of sleep that you get when you are young, will haunt you when you are older. The poorly sleeping two year-old is that same kid who struggles in college.”

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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.