1. Using screens to help their child “wind down” at the end of the day.
I’ve had many clients tell me that their child watches a TV show or uses some type of story app to help him wind down before bed. Sure, the child may be really chill while watching it simply because he’s captivated by it.
Parents mistake this quiet captivation for calmness. However, what usually happens after is a bedtime fight. Stalling, fussing, pleading, and not being tired enough to go to sleep.
So, what happened?
While screens may appear to help a child settle down, they actually do the opposite.
The brain is responsible for the production of melatonin, the natural hormone that aids sleep. You want your child’s body to produce this to help him sleep when bedtime comes around.
Darkness is one factor that tells the brain it’s time for sleep. When it is dark, the brain will signal the production of melatonin.
On the contrary, when there is a lot of light, it will tell the brain to stay awake. Screens emit blue light, which is the color that hinders the production of melatonin the most.
When the brain gets the signal that it’s time to be awake, it will produce cortisol instead of melatonin.
Cortisol is the natural hormone that helps a person wake up. So, to break it down, here’s what happens.
When the child views a screen before bedtime, his body thinks it’s time to be awake due to the bright, blue light he’s staring at. Therefore, it tells his body to produce cortisol to help him stay awake. Then, when you go to put him to bed shortly after, his body is now working against him instead of helping him sleep.It will take even longer for him to settle and fall asleep, all because of that tiny little light box of entertainment.
For this reason, I always recommend that my clients have a settling down period at least one hour before bedtime, with no screens or other bright lights. Making this small tweak to a child’s evening can really help bedtime go smoother.