Does your teenager go to bed with their mobile phone? Is their room filled with electronic devices? If your teenager is struggling to sleep, new studies suggest their technology might be to blame.
Adolescence and sleep
During the teenage years, hormones in the body go into overdrive and circadian rhythms shift. Teenagers may already find themselves more susceptible to sleep deprivation and insomnia. When other factors come into play, you end up with a high instance of disrupted sleep among teenagers.
Blue light disrupts sleep
Mariana Figueiro’s research into light and sleep at the Polytechnic Institute in Tory, New York has found that teenagers experience an extra-sensitivity to light.
She compared melatonin levels in adults and teenagers looking at different types of computer screens. Melatonin is the chemical released by the pineal gland in the brain. It tells our body that it’s tired and needs sleep. Scientists have known for some time that blue light of the type emitted from TV, computer, and phone screens disrupts the pineal gland, but weren’t fully aware of the extent.
In Figueiro’s studies, teenagers suppressed significantly more melatonin than other age groups when exposed to the same blue light. Even when they were shown blue light at less than 1/10th the density of that shown to adults, the teens’ melatonin suppression was higher.
These results are reflected in a 2014 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, who found that 68% of teens kept an electronic device on all night, and more than half of all teens were getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night (instead of the recommended 8 ½ - 10 hours).
How to help teens get a better night’s sleep
It can be difficult to create structure around sleeping for a teenager. Figueiro suggests that if teens won’t turn their devices off an hour before bedtime, to use an app (such as this free one called f.lux) that warms the colours on screens to the spectrum that doesn’t have an impact on sleep.
You may also be able to make lifestyle changes that have a positive impact. For example, switching some chores from the morning to the evening may allow teenagers to sleep in for longer before they get up for school. This could give them more time to sleep.
Making sure their rooms are dark, cool, and comfortable, and using sleep aids like Sleepezi sprays, mists, and tonics, will help your teen to learn to sleep well throughout the night.