Who’s Sleeping With Your Teen?

The shocking answer…anyone who is in your teen’s contact list or in their social media feeds. That’s a lot of people your teen is curling up with every night.

Statistics bore me. But these stats hit a chord with me.

  • 95% of 18-29 year olds sleep with their phone right next to their bed.
  • 25% of people don’t silence their phone before going to bed.
  • 10 % of people are woken by notifications of texts, tweets, snapchats and emails.
  • 50% of people will check their phone if they wake in the night.

And our teens are always “on” because of FOMO (aka Fear Of Missing Out)

Screen time comes at a high price. Why? Blue light emitted from these devices inhibits our body’s natural melatonin production, which we need to fall asleep and stay asleep each night. Quite simply, technology can keep us up at night.

Because it’s so stimulating, interactive screen-time shifts the nervous system into fight-or-flight mode, which leads to dysregulation and disorganization of various biological systems.

Over time, repeated fight-or-flight and overstimulation of the nervous system from electronics will often eventually culminate in a dysregulated brain.

One way to think about the impact of screen time is to view electronics as a stimulant (in essence, not unlike caffeine, amphetamines, or cocaine): electronic screen device use puts the body into a state of high arousal and hyperfocus, followed by a “crash.”

This overstimulation of the nervous system is capable of causing a variety of chemical, hormonal, and sleep disturbances in the same way other stimulants can. And just as drug use can affect a user long after all traces of the drug are out of the body, electronic media use can affect the central nervous system long after the offending device is actually used.

The human brain does not reach full development until around age 25. What can we do to protect our kids brain development? Technology is not going away. We have to learn to mange technology so it’s not managing us.

If you are routinely getting less than six hours a night, there’s a 99 percent chance that you’re chronically fatigued.

To operate optimally, 90 percent of the human population needs somewhere between seven to nine hours a night, says Ying-Hui Fu, a human geneticist at the University of California-San Francisco.

The negative effects of sleep loss are well documented. Research confirms that a lack of sleep impacts the body on a systematic level, disrupting everything from our metabolism to our immune system. Sleep loss has been linked to obesity, heart disease, reduced fertility, mood disorders, learning and memory problems and cancer. “It’s tied to everything,” says Fu.

Studies have also shown that extreme fatigue makes us:

  • less alert
  • more susceptible to cognitive errors of memory lapses
  • more impulsive
  • less able to handle small daily stressors
  • less efficient at work and school
  • less able to make effective decisions
  • less able to solve problems
  • less able to effectively communicate
  • struggle to adapt to new situations
  • less flexible
  • less innovative

The answer to this sleeping with technology problem is obvious and challenging to implement. Cut out screen time at least 1 hour before bed and get all electronics out of the bedroom. Heck, getting them out of the actual bed would be an improvement for some. But how do we do this? Here’s some tips to help you get started.

1. Know and communicate family values: Don’t make this a punishment for your kids. Talk about this as a family value. You value a healthy lifestyle and sleep is an absolute must for good health.

2. Parent Modeling: If you expect your kids to unplug at night, so must you. This is the hardest for parents because it forces us to get honest with ourselves about our screen time.

3. Rethink alarms: If you are using your phone as an alarm clock, spend $10 for the real deal.  An alternative to the traditional alarm clock is the wake-up light, which sits on your bed table and wakes you up naturally by slowly brightening so that it feels like you’re waking up with the sun. Think about it — before electricity, we slept and woke by the sun, taking our cues from Mother Nature. That’s best for our bodies. I like the ones by Philips, which offer multiple brightness settings to fit your personal preferences.

4. Less Parenting and More Partnering with Your Kids: Removing screen time at night will come with resistance….lot’s of resistance! Tell your kids you understand how hard this will be for all of you. Ask them to help keep you honest when you’re struggling with this transition.

FOMO (aka Fear Of Missing Out) is a very real and powerful force for our kids. I’d even go as far to say that many adults suffer from this too.

Remember, whatever texts, tweets, snapchats, emails etc. that come through in the middle of the night, they will still be there in the morning.


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