Sleep and Technology
Children today use media and electronics for longer periods of time than before. Unlike TV shows, which have defined showtimes, computer use can go on indefinitely. And because computers can be used at any time of the day, they are often used late into the evening and right before bedtime.
Melatonin is a hormone in the body that helps to regulate our circadian rhythm, otherwise known as the body clock. It determines a person's sleeping and waking hours by influencing our desire to sleep or stay awake. Researchers say exposure to light alters the amount of melatonin produced, and a decline in melatonin production is often associated with sleep problems.
Thus, computer users who work or play at night in front of a bright display might lose sleep because performing such a stimulating task late at night may suppress the natural production of melatonin that is critical to the normal sleep-wake cycle. These have detrimental effects on one’s biological clock.
Tips for parents regarding the use of computer before sleep:
- Don’t use the computer for too long at night before sleeping. Reduce exposure duration and intensity.
- In general, maintain a healthy distance between your eyes and the device. Researchers at the University of Southern California found that the distance from their eye to tablet screen had a significant impact on melatonin levels. The impact on melatonin suppression was insignificant after 60 minute exposure, and considerable after 120 minutes.
- Consider dimming the devices at night, to minimize melatonin suppression.
- Set a good example for your children to follow
Studies have also shown that in the long-term, disturbances in our circadian rhythm may lead to brain cell changes, and cause sleep problems in old age. Parents, it is time to inculcate healthy computer usage habits in our children.
- WebMD. (2003). Nighttime Computer Users May Lose Sleep
- Medical News Today. (2012). Why Do Computer Tablets Disrupt Sleeping Patterns?
- How Stuff Works. (2012). Is your children’s computer time affecting their sleep patterns?