Spring clean your sleep routine

Spring clean your sleep routine

Adjusting to a change in sleep schedules can be difficult for kids, especially when screen time is involved. Looking at a screen, such as a phone, tablet or the TV, too close to bedtime can make it difficult to wind down. In fact, sleep experts have found that the blue light emitting from screens can delay melatonin production, sending sleepy cues to your brain minutes to even hours later than you might like.

“Screen time before bed can also simply be activating, exciting and mask our own thoughts about the prior day or the day ahead. Once the screen is “off,” it takes time for our brain to power down as well,” says Dr. Innessa Donskoy, a pediatric sleep specialist at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

In addition to any traditional “spring cleaning,” Dr. Donskoy advises parents to also use this time of year to reset their child or teen’s sleep schedule and to help improve their overall sleep habits. One way is for parents to collaborate with their child or teen to create a “screens-off contract.” The goal? To try and get kids/teens off their phones and devices for at least one full hour before bedtime.

“We want to set our kids/teens up for the success to even be able to feel sleepy by not exposing them to this light,” explains Dr. Donskoy.

Implementing this extra buffer can be a helpful tool to transition into relaxing, which is a necessity for falling asleep. This allows kids and parents to discover what can be added to the bedtime routine in lieu of extra screen time.

“The screen time we take away doesn’t mean going to bed earlier. It can be a chance to discover what we enjoy, what relaxes us and what helps put the day away,” explains Dr. Donskoy. “Maybe it’s a chat together about the day or doing a calming activity together as a family, like a puzzle or card game. Solo activities like reading, drawing or journaling can also be good alternatives to screen time.”

While having a completely electronics-free hour before bedtime is ideal, making that transition can be tricky at first. Dr. Donskoy says one useful first step is transitioning to an audio-only podcast, or calming music or white noise rather than a screen. Eventually, it will become a habit. Dr. Donskoy adds that this “screens-off” tactic also will help with waking up in the morning.

“Light exposure in the morning does the same thing as it does at night – it turns off our sleepy cues. Which is why a consistent wake up time is also key,” she says.

If your child struggles with sleep, help is available. Learn more about childhood sleep disorders and find a pediatric sleep specialist in IL or WI.

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About the Author

Lee Batsakis
Lee Batsakis

Lee Batsakis, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Children’s Hospital. She graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in public relations and has worked in health care since 2013. Outside of work, she enjoys reading, exercising, and spending time with her fiancé and two dogs.