Have you heard about the amazing pill which will help your kids sleep better and improve school grades? It is 100% safe and legal. The drug companies don’t want you to know about it…
Adults in America give their children a lot of drugs each year. Over 8 million children take some type of prescription psychiatric medication. And millions more parents are giving their kids unregulated drugs like melatonin to help them sleep.
Sleep is essential to the development of physically and psychologically healthy children. Sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, stunted growth, and mental health issues such as depression, suicidal tendencies and substance abuse. There is conclusive evidence that lack of sleep has a huge negative impact on academic performance.
It is not surprising, then, that parents are concerned if their children have sleep issues. It explains why sales of melatonin have increased more than 500% in the last few years.
However, there are studies which suggest melatonin can cause “changes in physiological systems, including the reproductive, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems” according to a recent paper published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Michael Grandner from the University of Arizona said, “Any person in the sleep world will tell you the same thing: Melatonin is not harmless, is vastly overused and should not be used as a sleep aid to treat insomnia.”
So what is the new wonder pill with zero negative side-effects?
Well actually it is not new. Oh, and it isn’t really a pill.
Dr. Craig Canapari is the director of the Pediatric Sleep Center at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. He encourages parents to try behavioral interventions, before using drugs: “Improving sleep hygiene, avoiding screen time in the evenings [and] limiting sleep in the afternoon and sleeping in on the weekends.”
In other words – set rules and enforce them. And the one single rule you can immediately implement in your house is NO DEVICES AT BEDTIME.
JAMA Pediatrics reviewed 467 academic studies and came to the conclusion that there is a “strong and consistent association” between children using devices at bedtime and “inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness.”
The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least 30 minutes of “gadget-free transition time” before bedtime.
There are three huge problems with children using devices at bedtime.
They delay sleep. Games are designed to encourage the play of just one more round. YouTube displays more enticing videos to watch as soon as the current video ends. Group text chats encourage kids to continue talking with their friends. There is a reason social media sites employ addiction experts. They want users to become addicted to their apps. They make it difficult for the child to put the device down and go to sleep.
They keep the brain alert. Games and videos stimulate the brain. Emails, texts or Snapchat messages can make it hard to switch off and relax. After a day occupied with technology and looking at a screen, the mind needs time to unwind and drift peacefully toward slumber.
They disturb and interrupt sleep. The constant chimes of reminders and notifications wake your child up during the night. Many children turn off the “Do Not Disturb” mode, because of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.
So be a parent and set rules. No devices or video games in the 30 minutes before bedtime.
Instead, create a consistent bedtime routine. Make sure your home environment is peaceful as bedtime nears. Dim lights, calm activities, no stressful conversations. Make sure your child’s bedroom is sleep-inducing – dark, quiet, cool temperature, a comfortable mattress with cosy bedding.
I once spoke with a doctor who runs a rehab center for adults with substance-abuse problems. He told me that the symptoms of people addicted to their devices are almost identical to people with chemical addictions.
However, the good news is that addiction to devices is MUCH easier to treat. The doctor told me that upon entry to his facility, all patients are required to surrender their phones and any other electronic devices. They suffer withdrawal for 24 hours, but after that they display no further symptoms and for the rest of their stay at his facility don’t seem to miss them at all.
And they probably get a much better night’s sleep!