As a proud father of a beautiful 6 month old baby girl, I understand the value of sleep. My wife and I constantly count our daughter’s sleep hours, not to mention our own. When sleep is in short supply, you come to realize how important it truly is. We all know the negative relationship between sleep and the blue light emitted from digital devices. But did you know that developing minds get hit the hardest? Teens, as you probably have experienced, tend to stay up later. As you add factors that detract from sleepiness, you enter a world of hurt.
The Groggy Teen
Teens are notoriously late to bed and very late to rise. During the school year, they simply suffer the consequences of late bedtimes without the benefit of sleeping in. Studies show that a shift in circadian rhythm in the teenage years accounts for the staying up and sleeping in. However, what happens when you throw blue light into the mix? The Washington Post recently broke down the problem.
As it is, society works against the teenage sleep schedule to which they naturally default. If you add blue light to the mix, sleep comes even harder. The result is a groggy teenager, unwilling or unable to perform to the best of their abilities. As Dr. Steven Lockley of Harvard Medical School put it, “Asking a teenager to get up at 7 a.m. is like asking me to get up at 4 a.m.”
- More than half of teens reportedly sleep 7 hours or less per night (8.5-10 hours is recommended)
- 68% of teens reportedly have blue light emitting screens on all night long
- Only 25% of children aged 6-17 who sometimes slept with devices on reported sleeping well
Teenagers find themselves continuously moved in a more precarious direction as regards their sleep. The proliferation of digital devices simply exacerbates the problem. Consider this, according to The National Sleep Foundation, “sleep is food for the brain.” When you’re growing, a balanced and consistent diet is essential to correct and healthy development. Now apply the same principle to a growing brain. The brain, it is said, continues to grow in capacity until around age 25. Teenagers occupy the terminal and essential stages of brain development. Their sleep habits could make or break them in the years that follow. Without food, the body suffers, and dies. Without sleep, the brain practically does the same thing.
We do so much to prevent our children from accessing dangerous substances that will harm their bodies. Shouldn’t we offer at least that much concern for how they treat their brain? Drugs and alcohol have proven to harm both brain and body. Controlling access to these can be difficult, but we do not give up because it’s hard. The same should go for sleep. Teens resist control of their schedule, especially at night. If we can help our teens reduce the factors that harm them, we can help them.
Help Them Help Themselves
Helping teens understand the importance of sleep (as if they don’t already appreciate sleep enough) is the first step. The next step is helping them see the dangers of blue light exposure, especially at night, is next. There’s little chance of controlling teens bedtime completely, but we can at least help them remove the harmful influence of blue light at bedtime.