How to Set Boundaries with Technology for Better Sleep
As a parent, you know how important it is to meet the basic needs of your children. Most parents understand the benefits of proper nutrition and exercise for their kids. But, when it comes to making sure kids get enough sleep, there can be struggles.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, school-age children should get anywhere from 9-11 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, studies have shown that many children only get around 7-8 hours each night, and sometimes even less.
There are a variety of factors that can play into your child’s sleep health, but technology is a big one.
We live in a digital device society, and kids are getting smartphones and tablets in their hands very early on. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s important to set boundaries when it comes to technology – especially when it comes to getting better sleep.
So, what’s the real issue with tech and sleep? If your child is having trouble getting to bed each night, what can you do to establish healthy boundaries between them and their devices? Let’s look at why your child needs to get more sleep, how technology could be hindering it, and how you can help.
Why Sleep is Important for Kids
You’ve probably heard that sleep is important for healthy growth. If your kids have had trouble sleeping for a while, you may have even said that as an incentive for them to get some shut-eye. But, making sure your children get enough sleep is crucial for so many different reasons beyond basic growth and development.
Not getting enough sleep, even as a child, can lead to problems like:
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of depression
Additionally, a lack of sleep can impact your child’s quality of life and how they get through each day. They might start to struggle in school, perform poorly in extracurricular activities, and even develop issues in their relationships. Their behaviors and attitude can change at home, especially if their mental health becomes impacted.
So, while sleep is vital for physical development and healthy functioning, it’s just as important for their mental and cognitive states.
How Technology Can Create Poor Sleep Hygiene
What does technology really have to do with kids not getting enough sleep? First, it’s been proven that most digital devices emit something called blue light. Blue light causes the body to produce less melatonin – a useful hormone that helps you feel drowsy. Exposure to blue light at night can distort the body’s natural circadian rhythms – the signals in the brain that tell your body when it’s time to be asleep and awake.
When your child’s circadian rhythms get out of sync, they’ll have a harder time falling asleep at night. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make them any less tired. Their body still needs sleep. So, they might start napping during the day or even falling asleep when they shouldn’t. That can create a vicious cycle. If they take a nap during the day, they’re less likely to sleep at night, throwing off those rhythms even more.
Digital devices can also stimulate your child’s brain, especially if they’re playing games or watching videos. That makes it even harder for them to get into a relaxed state and fall asleep. So, while many kids might have their phones or tablets by their bedside, it’s likely time to set boundaries to preserve their sleep hygiene.
What You Can Do
Not sure how to set those boundaries? It may not be easy, especially if your child is used to having their device(s) before bed. One of the best ways to make a change is to develop a routine with your child. That should start with them going to bed around the same time each night.
Part of the routine should include something you can do to replace technology. One idea is to try mindfulness with your child. When done correctly, it can reduce stress levels and bring them into a calmer state of mind. Especially if your child already practices it at school, you can practice mindfulness at home in a variety of ways, including:
- Guided meditation
- Breathing exercises
- Gratitude practicing
Your main goal should be to establish an environment of relaxation and let your child know that their bed is for sleeping, not for scrolling through Instagram. As part of their routine, cut off electronic devices two hours before bedtime. This will give your child’s mind and body a chance to adjust and for the blue light to “wear off,” so their natural circadian rhythms won’t be disrupted.
Because we live in a world saturated with technology, these boundaries are difficult but necessary. Now that you know the importance of healthy sleep for your child, and what technology can do, try to implement a better routine and get them back in sync with healthy sleep habits. Talk to your kids about why these particular boundaries are important. When they have a better understanding and know the benefits of healthy sleep, they’re less likely to argue against the limits you’re putting in place.