A recent study suggests that having technology in the bedroom – whether it’s a laptop, handheld device or TV – can prevent children from getting adequate sleep. We asked Dr. Elisha McCoy, a Le Bonheur pediatrician, to weigh in on this topic.

Why does technology in the bedroom make it harder to sleep?
Technology in the bedroom, both for children and adults, is problematic for several reasons.

  • First, there is the natural cognitive stimulation that occurs while watching television, playing video games or playing with a smart phone. The stimulation results in decreased ability to relax, which inevitably leads to a later bed time, likely without parental knowledge.
  • Additionally, if a child goes to sleep with the television on or with a smart phone nearby, the sounds can wake the child throughout the night, leading to disturbed sleep patterns and restless sleep.
  • Finally, the glow of the light from a television or smart device leads to an internal physical response, similar to a “flight or fight.” This can cause release of hormones that make sleep more difficult and the decreased release of hormones like melatonin, which help induce sleep.

How can parents ensure their child is getting adequate rest?
Remove the television and other electronics from the bedroom. The bedroom should be for sleeping only. Establish a routine for bedtime that is 30-60 minutes long and prepares the child for sleeping. This can include a bath, reading, putting on pajamas, etc.

Try to maintain a regular bedtime and waking schedule, even on the weekends. This will help protect the child's natural circadian rhythm. For older children, many sleep disturbances result from technology, but also from stress and anxiety. Techniques for relaxation or behavioral therapy may assist with “winding down” before bedtime.

How many hours of sleep is recommend for a school-aged child?
Sleep requirements vary with age; however, beginning about 4-5 years of age and progressing up to the teenage years, approximately nine to 11 hours of sleep is recommended.

The importance of getting sleep cannot be overstated. It continues to be linked to the physical, cognitive, emotional and social development of children.