With the start of the new school year, the inevitable battle to get your kids back into healthy bedtime habits begins. Often this is thought to mean resetting the boundaries of screen usage, especially late at night. But imposing and enforcing these rules is easier said than done.
A growing body of research reveals strong links between sleep, mental health and screen time in teens and teens is becoming About 42% of adolescents are suffering from mental health conditions in the midst of an unprecedented mental health crisis. Many young people in the United States have mental health problems, and teens sleep too little.
And it’s a vicious circle. Both sleep deprivation and increased activity associated with social media and video game consumption before bed can exacerbate or cause anxiety and depression that require intervention.
I am the Chief Physician of the Sleep Center at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which studies a variety of pediatric sleep disorders. Our team of doctors and healthcare providers regularly observe firsthand the negative effects of excessive screen time, especially social media. Both of these affect not only sleep, but also the patient’s physical and mental health.
Relationship between mental health and sleep deprivation
Research has long shown a positive relationship between mental health and sleep. Poor sleep quality can lead to poor mental health and vice versa. People with depression and anxiety commonly have insomnia. It is a condition in which it is difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both, or to have a restful sleep. Continuous sleep deprivation exacerbates the very depression and anxiety that caused insomnia in the first place.
In addition, insomnia and poor sleep quality can also blunt the effectiveness of treatments and medications. At worst, chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of suicide. One study found that just one hour less sleep per week was associated with “significantly higher rates of serious thoughts about suicide, suicide attempts, and drug use, and feelings of hopelessness.” did.
And what do young people do when they wake up and lie in bed irritated and sleepless? As you can imagine, they very often use smart devices.
Studies around the world of over 120,000 young people between the ages of 6 and 18 who participate in all kinds of social media have repeatedly shown poorer quality and less sleep.This is happening all over the world, not just in America
The powerful gravitational pull of screens and social media
While social media has some benefits, I believe research has shown that there are far more negatives to social media consumption than positives.
First, scrolling through social media requires you to be awake, which disturbs your sleep.
Second, the light emitted by most handheld devices, whether equipped with night filters, blue light filters, or both, is sufficient to lower levels of melatonin, the key hormone that signals the onset of sleep. .
When melatonin release is inhibited by staring at a lit device near bedtime, it becomes more difficult to fall asleep. For some people, melatonin supplements can help induce sleep. However, supplements cannot beat the content of the Internet and the highly stimulating power of light.
Third, and perhaps most problematic, is the content young people are consuming. Watching fast-paced images like those seen on TikToks and video games before bed is highly stimulating to the brain and body, and disruptive as it takes longer to settle into a sleep-friendly state.
But it’s not just the speed at which images fly. Media content can interfere with both non-dream sleep and dreaming sleep. Have you ever fallen asleep watching a disturbing thriller or horror movie only to find scenes from that movie in your dreams? And it’s not just your dreams that are affected. Because your brain is still processing fast-paced images, you may not be able to sustain deep sleep outside of your dreams. These intrusions during sleep can have a significant impact on overall sleep quality and quantity.
Worst of all, social media can cause FOMO (short for Fear of Missing Out). This can occur when teens engage with influencers and role models through posts, reels and stories, as they all reflect unreal, not real, perfection. cultivated in
Additionally, research found a clear link between social media consumption and poor body image in children and teens, as well as worse overall mental health and worse sleep problems. I’m here.
These issues are so troubling that in May 2023, the Surgeon General warned of the dangers of social media and encouraged caregivers, teachers and policymakers to work together to create a safer online environment. issued a statement to
chronic sleep deprivation
Making sleep a priority is fundamental to overall health and mental health, and is also key to staying alert and alert during class.
Multiple professional medical and scientific organizations recommend eight to ten hours of sleep each night for teenagers. However, there are only five high school students close to this one for her and one for him.
Part of the reason is that school start times don’t match most teens’ natural rhythms, so they don’t fall asleep early enough on weekdays.
Teens who don’t get enough sleep can suffer from poor academic performance, poor organization, and poor decision-making. Teenagers do not have a fully formed frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls impulses and judgment. Lack of sleep exacerbates these behaviors. As a result, they may make erroneous decisions regarding drug or alcohol use, drunken driving, sexual promiscuity, fighting or the use of weapons. And these behaviors can start in middle school, if not earlier.
In addition, sleep deprivation is directly linked to the development of high blood pressure, heart attack, and diabetes in adulthood. Lack of adequate sleep is also associated with childhood and adolescent obesity. Unwanted weight gain is caused by sleep deprivation through a complex series of mechanisms, including altered metabolism, sedentary lifestyle, and inappropriate dietary choices.
So how do you keep your teens and teens away from screens? It’s important to keep your goals realistic, and sometimes it’s helpful to start by focusing on just one goal. is.
Parents should prioritize sleep for the whole family and model good screen time habits. Caregivers too often send mixed messages regarding their screen time use, considering their own bad habits.
Ultimately, parents and caregivers need to recognize the warning signs of sleep deprivation and progressive mood and anxiety disorders. Seek professional help for sleep disorders, mental health issues, or both. Keep in mind that finding a mental health professional can take time.
When it comes to digital media, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screens for at least an hour before bed and not sleeping with devices on in your bedroom.
For older children who have to do their homework online, avoiding screen use right before bedtime can be nearly impossible. Additionally, this rule tends to lead to covert use of electronic devices.
So if the hour before bedtime is too harsh, start by avoiding media for 15 or even 30 minutes before bed. Or, if you want media as a compromise, try watching something passive like TV instead of using social media apps like Snapchat.
Note that you don’t have to do everything at once. Making incremental changes can make a big difference over time.