We’d had the argument at least a hundred nights before. It was the same conversation, the same struggle, and it would be, ultimately, the same outcome. If I had to explain to my child one more time why he couldn’t keep the tablet in his room at night – even if he promised he wouldn’t use it! – I thought my head would explode. I am all for screen time in moderation and using devices wisely, but there’s one thing I won’t compromise and that’s my family’s sleep.
How to Protect Your Family’s Sleep
Protecting their sleep wasn’t as hard when the kids were little, but as they grew up, their desire to be constantly connected or have their devices within arm’s reach at all times started to wreak havoc on their sleep schedules. When my normally happy, morning child would come downstairs cranky and exhausted, I knew things had to change. That’s when we made the bedrooms screen-free zones in our home.
Screen-free zones are areas in our house that we’ve decided to keep device-free. That means no smartphones, no music devices, no computers, no tablets, and no televisions. In terms of bedtime, that meant that once allowed phones (“I just need it for my alarm in the morning, mom!”) had to be left downstairs for the night. It was a tough transition for some of us, but not having screens in the bedroom resulted in everyone getting a better night’s sleep.
But I didn’t want to stop there when it came to protecting my family’s sleep.
An Hour Before Bedtime
Research done by the Penn State College of Medicine Researchers in 2017 found that kids who used screens whether in video games, browsing their smartphones, or watching television before bed had a higher incidence of sleep and nutritional problems. In fact, the use of screens at night also led to higher rates of exhaustion in the morning, which circled back to the increase in BMI numbers.
The good news is that this cyclical behavior can be stopped by limiting the use of screens for an hour or so before bedtime.
In practical terms, that means that we have the kids finish up their schoolwork, social interactions, and anything else they want to do on their devices an hour before bedtime. The devices get placed in the charging station in the family room so that they’re ready for use the next day. Not only does it help everyone get a better night’s sleep, it also helps that sometimes tough transition process as we wind down for the day.
Now, instead of checking social media one last time before going to bed, we’re reading a paperback book or meditating. The screen and distraction-free time help us quiet our minds and prepare our bodies for rest. It’s amazing how being an unplugged family at bedtime can completely change our evening and morning routines.
Protecting your family’s sleep begins with the recognition that there are changes to be made. Have a conversation with your family about why and how protecting their sleep is important so that you can all be on the same page. Before long, your family will be sleeping longer and wake up more refreshed and ready to tackle the new day.