There is now a fair amount of research that indicates children should greatly limit their amount of screen time, hence the title of the blog- more screen time will not save you anything! More screen time means more damage to the body as there is less sleep and less healing. Let me explain. Research is now showing that when exposed to the screen of our TV, phone, and even that little alarm clock, the body does not produce serotonin as well. The light of the screen is telling your body that it is time to wake up, not time to shut down and rest. So here we have countless people who watch TV in their beds at night and wonder why they cannot get to sleep and get a good night’s rest. The screen is not saving them. The screen is not helping them sleep. The screen is actually harming your health!
As many of you already know, much of my training over the years has been in dental sleep medicine. There is now a great body of research in this field and we have learned that sleep is incredibly important to good health. One of the biggest problems we are facing now is that most people seem to have fragmented sleep. What this means is that many of us wake up multiple times each night and this is detrimental to our well being. Our hormones that control the body are not able to recharge like they should and the lack of deep sleep does not allow the body to heal.
So now let’s talk about the average child’s nighttime rituals. Well, mostly it seems to involve a little box with lights and it makes a lot of noise. It seems that many children are on their Android or Apple phones well into the nighttime, talking to their friends, gaming, and reading up on social media. This means that their bodies are being told to wake up. 100 years ago, BC (Before Cells), when the evening came around a child might read a book for a while with gentle light and they would slowly drift off to sleep. Today, that same child might be on their phone up until the time of bed, only to find that they cannot fall asleep. So they toss and turn all night, waking up frequently, and when the morning comes they are too tired to function. Unfortunately, I see this every day.
After enough years of poor sleep, it’s no wonder children are showing more signs of ADD, OCD, and health and behavioral problems. Fragmented sleep is now rampant in our society and there is no sign that it is getting any better. In fact, new research is showing that the current generation of children will not live as long as the previous generation due to the decline in overall health. Could all this be due to poor sleep? Yes- it certainly is contributing to poor health. Every day I counsel my patients to get outdoors and get in the sun and the fresh air. Do they do it? Heck no- they would much rather play games on their phone and log in to social media.
Dear readers – it is time that we re-think our behaviors and make changes that will help us live longer and healthier. Get outdoors! Get some sun on you! All it takes is 20-30 minutes to stimulate Vitamin D production which will help regulate the sleep patterns better. We routinely have our patients check Vitamin D levels and in almost all cases the D is virtually nonexistent. So make sure your ‘D’ is good, get outdoors, and have some fun in the sun!