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Teens Using Technology - Backlit Devices can Impact on Sleep

New research from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, indicates that teenagers who use backlit technology, such as tablet devices, for two hours before bed, may have their sleeping patterns disrupted. At this time of year in Australia, many teens are studying for their final HSC exams and using computers for extended periods. Being aware of backlit technology's possible effects on sleep and melatonin release, may help parents advise their teens on how to ensure they get sufficient sleep.

We know that sleep has an impact on learning and information retention so we've written about this topic before. For more information on sleep and teens, please read:

Teens, Study and Lost Sleep - the Link with Academic Success

Teenagers Need More than Seven Hours Sleep

How Much Sleep Does Your Teenager Need?

Backlit Devices May Interrupt Sleeping Patterns

The new LRC research shows that a two-hour exposure to electronic devices with self-luminous 'backlit' displays causes melatonin suppression, which might lead to delayed bedtimes, especially in teens. “Our study shows that a two-hour exposure to light from self-luminous electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about 22%. Stimulating the human circadian system to this level may affect sleep in those using the devices prior to bedtime,” said Professor Figueiro. And until manufacturers develop more “circadian-friendly” electronic devices that increase or decrease light exposure based on time of day, Figueiro recommends "dimming these devices at night as much as possible in order to minimize melatonin suppression, and limiting the amount of time spent using these devices prior to bedtime.” 

Your teens might not want to hear this information during other times of the year when they want to play games on tablet-style devices but perhaps during final exam times, they'll be more receptive to this information.

Morning Light Helps Teens Sleep

Another field study by the LRC in 2010 indicated that teenagers are likley to have better sleep if they have more exposure to morning light. During term time, high schools have schedules requiring teenagers to be in school early in the morning, so teens often miss some morning light. However, during a study break, your teen has an opportunity to change this pattern and possibly benefit from more and better sleep. “As teenagers spend more time indoors, they miss out on essential morning light needed to stimulate the body’s 24-hour biological system, which regulates the sleep/wake cycle,”  said Professor Figueiro. In this study it was found that students who wore special glasses to prevent short-wavelength (blue) morning light from reaching their eyes experienced a 30-minute delay in sleep onset by the end of five days.

Good luck getting your teens out of bed for some morning exercise and all the best to everyone supporting teenagers studying for their final HSC exams.