The Sticky Files - Marisca Bakker

Sleep and screen time do not necessarily mix

Marisca tests out a theory that the TV is hurting her children’s sleep

If you’ve been following along for a while (hi, mom) you’ll know that my children don’t sleep. I’ve tried everything, bought every item ever invented that has promised a good night’s rest, diffused essential oils, tried different schedules and mattresses.

Nothing works and I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe I just have bad sleepers. But lately, I’ve been wondering if there is a correlation between screen and sleep time. Does the amount of time my children watch TV affect how much shut-eye they don’t get?

I mean, my children don’t sit in front of the TV all day but they do watch an hour or two and they play games on their tablets for a bit too at some point during the day.

The experts say that children under the age of two shouldn’t have any screen time and parents should limit screen time to one to two hours a day for children over age two.

I guess my kids are teetering on the edge of too much and my one-and-a-half year old does enjoy an episode of Cocomelon while I’m trying to cook dinner.

After doing some research, it appears there could be some ties between sleep and screen time. The human sleep-wake cycle follows a rhythm that mostly takes its cues from sunlight. Typically, when it is dark, your body produces melatonin to induce shut-eye and when the sun is shining the body becomes more awake.

Screens give off a light and can confuse the body into thinking it is daytime. Your body will then not produce melatonin and can mess up that sleep-wake cycle.

I decided to test my theory and take away all screen time for week. At first, my children thought they were in trouble but I assured them we were simply taking a break from the TV and the tablet. There were times when they were sort of onboard. There were definitely moments when they were not.

But overall, they ended up colouring more, doing more puzzles and the Barbies got a workout.

However, I ended up spending the week picking up crayons, cleaning up puzzles and stepping on Barbie shoes — I think it was worth it.

My kids ended up helping me more in the kitchen during dinner time and it turns out my seven-year-old is very good at entertaining the baby while I’m trying to do certain chores.

When the weather is nice, it is much easier to avoid screen time. My kids love being outside. Overall, the week flew by and my children fell asleep at bedtime more easily.

They all still woke up a lot during the nights, as usual, but falling asleep took less time. Was it the extra fresh air or the lack of screen time?

I’m not certain, but I’m happy that our bedtime routine took less time. It is so easy to throw a tablet at a kid when you need a moment of peace, but I’m discovering that it may not always be worth it in the long run.

There is a balance that I’m still trying to find. Screen time can be a tool, but it needs to be used wisely.


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