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Do the Bright Lights of Technology have a Dark Side on Learning?

It seems each month, we see in the news that technology such as tablets, mobile phones, laptops and the like, are rapidly increasing in their abilities to help people perform daily tasks.sleep banner 2

This advancement is quickly finding its way into the classroom and home life of students.

But as much as these devices can help our children, they can also hinder their abilities-to sleep that is.

The more our children rely on the technology, the greater the risk of a sleep disruption and thus an impairment to their learning ability.

Why does this happen?

Let’s look at the science.

The Science of Sleep  

Our bodies’ behaviour’s including our sleep/wake cycles are regulated by circadian rhythms which are akin to internal clocks that regulate everything from hormone secretion to appetite fluctuations. While we have multiple internal clocks, they are all influenced and managed within the main clock called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), located behind the optic chasm in the brain.

As our brain receives and processes light throughout the day, it signals the rest of the body according to those light fluctuations.

In the evening as daylight diminishes, the SCN tells the body to release melatonin, which is our natural sleep hormone.

How Technology Impairs Sleep

Although all spectrums of light can impact the brain, it is the blue-based ones, namely florescent and LEDs that have the greatest influence on a person’s circadian rhythms.

Therefore, when kids are looking at their electronic devices in the evening, the backlight that is emitted, (which in LED screens are blue-based), tells the brain it’s still daytime. Melatonin is then suppressed, making it very difficult for children to settle down and go to sleep.

This can lead to a loss in overall sleep duration and research has shown that even an hour of missed sleep, can impact children’s cognitive performance so significantly that they perform as if they are two years younger.

Sleep loss and poor sleep quality have also been shown to negatively impact immunity, mental health, weight, along with memory and cognitive function.

How to Help Your Child

  • Caregivers should role model healthy sleep habits. Children look to parents for guidance so make sure you are taking care of your sleep needs. Set a regular bedtime for yourself and respect it.
  • Instill a “wind down hour” before bedtime and shut off all electronics sixty to ninety minutes before your child’s bedtime. Everyone in the house should follow the rule to help encourage the children.
  • Have the whole family place all of their electronic devices in a central location so no one is tempted to check emails or social media late in the evening.
  • Create a soothing relaxing bedtime routine for the child that doesn’t involve technology use. A hot bath or shower, reading, journaling, meditation, listening to soothing music, or a few stretches, can all help a child relax and get ready for sleep. When this relaxation ritual is preformed every night, it becomes a cue for the brain to settle down for sleep quickly.

Technology can be a wonderful learning tool for children, however it’s important that by using it, it’s actually helping them to learn and not hindering it by effecting their sleep quality.

Monitor your child’s technology use and follow the above guidelines, to ensure that they have deep and restorative sleep.

Posted by Joleen Dilk Salyn in Grandparent, Parent, General ← Previous Post Next Post →

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