In an age where tablets and smartphones seem like natural extensions of our limbs, it's no surprise that toddlers are getting in on the tech action.
According to recent studies, a whopping 75% of toddlers are exposed to screens on a daily basis.
Whether it's a kiddie app or a YouTube video of The Wiggles, screens are for bad or for good becoming a regular part of our toddlers' lives.
Now, let's talk about the sleep disruptor hiding behind those glowing screens – melatonin, which is the sleep-inducing hormone we all rely on. Unfortunately, exposure to the blue light emitted by screens has been shown to mess with our body's melatonin production which in turn can make it harder for our little ones to wind down and catch those much-needed ZZZs.
The Bedtime Blues
Studies reveal that toddlers with more than an hour of screen time a day are twice as likely to have sleep difficulties. So if you’re struggle to get those tiny eyes to close then their screen time might be the reason why.
A toddler's imagination can run wild from experiences that you or I may see as mundane.
If they're exposed to images, lights and sounds before bed, this may be the thing that influences dreams and nightmares.
The Toddler Tango: How Screen Time Affects Sleep
Picture this: your toddler, eyes wide open, ready for action long after the bedtime story has been read. The culprit? Excessive screen time.
The toddler tango begins when the stimulating effects of screens collide with the winding-down process. Instead of drifting into dreamland, our little ones are buzzing with excitement, making bedtime a battle zone.
Screen Time Guidelines for Toddlers
Whilst ideal, it’s not always practical to banish screens from your toddler's life entirely. But it is possible to find that sweet spot for a balanced bedtime routine.
The One-Hour Rule: Consider limiting screen time to one hour per day for toddlers. It's a magic number that keeps the bedtime blues at bay.
Tech-Free Zone: Create a tech-free zone at least one hour before bedtime. Replace screens with calming activities like reading a book, drawing, or playing with non-tech toys. My go-to rule is 'no screens from dinnertime onwards'.
Night Mode Activated: For those unavoidable screen moments, activate the "night mode" feature to reduce the blue light emission. It's a small tweak that can make a big difference.
Sleep-Friendly Apps: If your toddler loves a good app session, opt for sleep-friendly ones designed to soothe rather than stimulate. There are meditation apps you can use pre-sleep which can be listened to, instead of watched.
Instead of a handheld screen, for better posture, environmental awareness and inclusivity, opt for the TV to use as a family.
Now, let's talk about the sleep environment. It's not just about reducing screen time; it's about creating a haven for restful slumber.
Establishing a calming pre-sleep routine that signals to your toddler that it's time to wind down. Dim the lights, play soft music, and create a relaxing atmosphere.
Comfort is key. Ensure your toddler's sleep space is comfortable and cozy. A TOG-rated sleeping bag/suit, special bedtime toy or comforter and their familiar sleep space (bed or cot).
Consistent Bedtime Rituals: Predictability is a toddler's best friend. Stick to consistent bedtime rituals, whether it's reading a book, singing a lullaby, or a goodnight snuggle.
In a nutshell, by being mindful of screen time and its impact on sleep, we can guide our little ones toward a more restful night without screen time struggles!
If you’re struggling with anything related to your baby or toddlers sleep, please don’t hesitate to reach out here.