Kids these days! I never thought I’d say those words, but here I am worried about how much time kids spend on the computer and watching television. Screens have infiltrated our homes and they’re not going anywhere soon. They’ve become a ubiquitous part of our work lives, social lives, and home lives. And kids are not immune. An increasing number of children have televisions, computers, cell phones, and tablets in their bedrooms. I’ve written before about how light from phones, computers, and televisions can affect sleep. The blue light from theses devices simulates daylight, confusing the brain into thinking its time to wake up. This is bad news if it’s time to go to bed. New research shows this type of light has an even more deleterious effect on children.
Obesity Linked to Sleep Loss
A recent study has shown that kids who don’t get enough sleep are far more likely to be overweight or obese. Why? Because less sleep correlates with poorer sugar metabolism, increased hunger, and poorer dietary choices. Tired kids eat more, and more of what they eat is junk food. This is terrible news, since being overweight or obese in childhood is closely linked to having weight problems in adulthood. The result: a lifelong struggle with all of the many consequences of excess weight. These include: heart disease, diabetes, circulation problems, issues with self image and confidence, and overall increased mortality.
Sleep Loss Linked to Bedroom Electronics
This is the first study to connect the dots: electronics in the bedroom leads to sleep loss which leads to obesity. Researchers found that students with access to electronic devices in their bedrooms were 1.47 times more likely to be overweight when compared to kids with no access. That number doubled when kids had access to three or more devices, suggesting a 1:1 correlation between amount of access and sleep. Sadly (but not shockingly) 57 percent of the students surveyed reported using electronics after bedtime.
Fortunately, there is an easy solution to this problem though, like many frustrating consequences of living in a wired world, the onus is on parents to create a healthy environment for their kids. Simply by banishing electronics from the bedroom, parents can significantly improve the health of their children. As we’ve seen before, sleep is also closely correlated with academic performance. While it might be a fight (prying the cell phone from a pre-teen is no fun) it’s a fight worth having.