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Sleep hygiene and regulating your child’s natural sleep/wake cycle
WELLNESS

Sleep hygiene and regulating your child’s natural sleep/wake cycle

On average, kids aged between 1-3 years of age should be sleeping 12-14 hours per day, and kids aged between 5-11 should be getting between 9-11 hours of sleep a night. Realistically, most kids on average, only sleep around 10 hours a night.

Most children fall asleep easily, however, if you find your child struggles to get to sleep, wakes up feeling tired or wakes up frequently during the night, you may find that they have been exposed to too much blue light.

What’s blue light, you ask? Natural blue light emitted from the sun during the day is beneficial to our circadian rhythm, our sleep/wake cycle. However, at night artificial blue light is usually emitted from sources such as digital devices, the TV, house lights, appliances, computers and street lights. All this exposure to artificial blue light can have detrimental effects on the health and wellbeing of your child.

One modern health concern that we are all facing regarding our children and teenagers, is the impact that blue light is having on their sleep. The disruption that blue light has on sleep, has been extensively studied and documented.

Melatonin, is the hormone responsible for inducing and ensuring we get a good night’s sleep, however, blue light disrupts the regulation and function of melatonin and turns the sleep inducing hormone off.

Without a good night’s sleep, children and teenagers may wake up feeling tired and disinterested in their upcoming day. Continual lack of or disrupted sleep, has potentially been related to many health conditions and may affect their daily mental and physical health.

 

Sleep hygiene and regulating your child’s natural sleep/wake cycle

 

One of the best habits to teach your children, regardless of their age, to help improve the quality of their sleep is, the importance of practicing sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene is intimately related to the natural ebb and flow of your body’s circadian rhythm. Have you ever noticed how you seem to feel tired around the same time each day, or your body just won’t let you sleep in on a weekend?

Well, this is known as the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which is governed by the natural cycles of the earth. When it naturally begins to get dark, our eyes send a signal to our hypothalamus, located in our brain, that it’s time to start feeling tired. The brain directs the pineal gland to start secreting high levels of melatonin, a hormone that induces a state of quiet relaxed wakefulness, making us feel tired enough to start preparing for sleep.

When we wake up in the morning, daylight naturally hits the eye, which sends a signal to your adrenal glands, instructing the body that it’s time to wake up for the day. The adrenal glands produce cortisol, the hormone responsible for waking us up in the morning, and direct us to get out of bed and begin our day.

One of the things that disrupts the circadian rhythm, is exposure to artificial blue light. Artificial blue light interferes with the body’s natural production and regulation of melatonin and stops its natural secretion. Melatonin is secreted a few hours before and during sleep as a natural response to prepare the body for sleep. 

As children and teenagers get home from school and spend time on their devices, the light they are exposed to makes their body think and respond like it’s the middle of the day and it is time to wake up and be alert. As a result, the natural sleep cycle is disrupted, the production of melatonin ceases and the exposure to light causes the body to switch from secreting melatonin, the hormone of sleep, to cortisol, the hormone that wakes us up.

Melatonin is also an antioxidant, protecting the natural functioning of cells while we sleep, it supports the immune system and is essential for our general health and wellbeing.

 

Top Sleep Tips

 

Below are 5 tips to help minimise your children’s and teenager’s exposure to blue light and potentially improve the quality and quantity of their sleep;

  • Practice sleep hygiene - Turn off all devices 2 hours before going to bed to help minimise melatonin suppression and allow the body to naturally prepare for sleep.
  • Blue light blocking glasses - Invest in a pair of blue light blocking glasses to help protect the health of your eyes as well as to help regulate the natural rhythm of your body. We are constantly exposed to artificial light, disrupting our bodies natural ability to implement natural biological responses.
  • Turn your phone screen to red. This unfortunately is not the same as night shift mode or low blue light. Go to https://www.blublox.com/blogs/news/ how-to-turn-your-iphone-screen-red
  • At sunset turn down the lighting in your home, using lamps to create an ambience of soft lighting to help minimise your exposure to blue light emitted from light bulbs.
  • Try to avoid disrupting the circadian rhythm as much as possible, trying to get your children to bed and up each morning at the same time. Listen to natures cues and minimise exposure to artificial light that can create all sorts of confusion in your body. 
Michelle Matthews
Author

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