Say Good Night: Less Screen Time Can Improve Teen Sleep Habits in a Few Weeks

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Researchers say reducing the total amount of blue-light
screen time for teens during the night can make them sleep better.

For most of human evolution, our sleep patterns have revolved around the pattern of the sun.Then our circadian rhythms were altered with the discovery of fire, and changed forever once we discovered electricity.

Now we can keep the lights on and a great screen in front of our faces if we want.

The difficult part, sleep experts are discovering, is rediscovering just how to transform it all off.

A standard complaint for modern parents is simply how much time their kids want to spend on the devices, if it be their phones, tablets, or computers.

Besides fears that they’ll miss the entire world around them, many parents are concerned about the long-term effects of a lot of screen use.

A fresh study suggests that it’s not only the screens but the specific hue of the blue glow they admit.

New research out of the Netherlands suggests that cutting off screen time two hours before it’s time for you to call it an evening — or at least wearing glasses that block the blue hue — may make significant differences in a adult’s sleep patterns.

The study was presented last weekend at the annual meeting of the European Society of Endocrinology in Lyon, France.

The findings haven’t been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal.

Changing teen sleep patterns

To test the results that blue-light emitting screens had on teenagers, researchers recruited 55 Dutch children ages 12 to 17 with varying degree of daily screen time usage.

They certainly were split into three groups. Some were studied while employing their screens as normal, while others wore glasses that blocked the screens’blue light, and others completely abstained from glowing screens.

Their sleep quality was judged over a five-week period using diaries, machines that track each time a person is restfully sleeping, and by sampling their degrees of melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep.

Researchers say the blue light-blocking glasses and reducing screen time a couple of hours before bed equated to overall better sleep.

Among the head researchers, Dr. Dirk Jan Stenvers, a postdoctoral research fellow and clinical endocrinology fellow at the Amsterdam UMC, said the info suggests that complaints of sleep problems, including taking longer to get to sleep, are due simply to the blue light emitted by screens.

“Adolescents increasingly take more time on devices with screens, and sleep complaints are frequent in this generation,” Stenvers said in a statement. “Here we show very simply why these sleep complaints could be easily reversed by minimizing evening screen use or contact with blue light.”

Study provides techniques for parents

The study offers practical insight for folks who’re helping their children get meaningful rest.

Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, told Healthline that among the interesting things she within the study was the utilization of blue light-filtering glasses.

“That is perfect for my patients that refuse to lessen their screen time, but I still believe it is important to keep it to a maximum of two hours a day to boost physical exercise in addition to allow children time [to] decompress before bedtime,” Posner said.

Dr. Danelle Fisher, vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says when discussing “sleep hygiene” with families, it’s important to see that less screen exposure before bedtime helps kids fall into a restful sleep faster.

“Sleep is very important in this generation and more and more adolescents are experiencing sleep disturbances,” Dr. Fisher said. “This may give families insight into the problems adolescents can experience with sleeping and how to boost sleep quality by trying to minimize screen exposure.”

Long-term health effects

Experts say it’s especially important because not getting enough sleep doesn’t just equate to being tired and having problems concentrating.

In the future, it may lead to preventable diseases, such as for example obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

With the brand new research, Stenvers and his fellow researchers say they’re interested in whether reduced screen time and improved sleep has longer lasting effects. And whether the investigation equals adults.

“If we can introduce simple measures now to tackle this matter, we can avoid greater health problems in years to come,” he said.

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