The Impact of Screen Time on Sleep by Chastity Van Pelt | Featuring The B Family

I think we have all too often heard the recommendation from the American Academy of
Pediatrics on screen time for our children. If you’re like me, you may find it hard to balance
recommendations and real life. As a Family Nurse Practitioner, Certified Pediatric Sleep
Consultant, and Mom to 2 young girls this is a challenge! However, I find that it’s easier to make
small changes when we understand the science behind the recommendation. So, this blog
takes a deep dive into the impact of screen time on sleep, particularly sleep in young children.

Learn about the impact of screen time on sleep in children and get practical tips to improve your family's sleep habits.

The circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock which helps regulate everything from sleep, to
body temperature and the immune system. The circadian rhythm uses environmental cues also
known as zeitgebers (the german word for timekeepers). Examples of zeitgebers are meals,
physical activity, and routine, however light and darkness are the most powerful. Light regulates
circadian rhythm by signaling when we need to be alert and when we need to rest. Our eyes
interpret light as information about the time of day, and morning light is an important signal to
wake the brain. Prior to electricity a person’s circadian rhythm was synchronized to sunrise and
sunset, enabling them to stay awake during the day and sleep when it was dark. With the
advent of electricity and technology, we experience some disruption of this synchronization due
to artificial light exposure; particularly when it is poorly timed or excessive.

We cannot talk about the circadian rhythm without discussing melatonin. Melatonin is an
important hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle and it’s produced and secreted by the
pineal gland in our brain. It signals our muscles to relax, slows our thinking, and facilitates sleep.
It is highest during darkness and lowest during daylight. Light exposure halts melatonin
production which disrupts the body clock making it more difficult to fall asleep. Artificial lights are
not created equal when it comes to their impact on sleep as they differ in brightness and
wavelength which changes how they are perceived by the brain. Screens such as televisions,
computers, tablets, and cell phones emit blue light which simulates day light and in turn blocks

Learn about the impact of screen time on sleep in children and get practical tips to improve your family's sleep habits.

Now that we understand that light and darkness are important regulators of our sleep-wake
cycle and that melatonin is blocked by exposure to light, we also understand why limiting screen
time, particularly later in the day is important. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and
The National Sleep Foundation recommend screens be turned off at least 30-60 minutes before
bed at minimum. But the question is: how we do this without losing our minds this summer as
we juggle all the tasks of caretaking, homemaking, and life?!

Here are some suggestions:

  • Morning daylight exposure to help regulate the body clock.
  • Reduce screen time gradually (decreasing it by 10-15 minutes every few days until in
    range) to make the transition smoother.
  • Set screen time rules (tech free zones or times of day that apply to children & adults).
  • Explain to your child why screens need to be off in the evening (we all have a sleepy
    button and it works the best when it’s dark, but our button won’t work when there is
    bright light).
  • As evening approaches dim the lights around your home.
  • Use the 30-60 minutes before bed to engage in a quiet activity with your child (i.e
    meditation or gratitude practice).
  • Replace screen time before bed with an audio player (Toniebox or Yoto Player).
  • If your child is using a screen late in the day, change the setting to “night mode” to
    reduce light exposure (this feature is on some phones, tablets, & smart TVs).
  • If your child requires a night light choose red orange or yellow hues as these prepare the
    body for sleep.
  • Have your child decorate their own sleep mask (my 6-year-old got this for her birthday
    and has been wearing it religiously!).
  • Blackout curtains will keep your child on schedule despite late sunsets and early

I hope this information has helped you understand the impact of screen time on sleep and why minimizing screen exposure late in the day is so important. If you need more guidance on implementing these changes or are experiencing sleep challenges with your child, I’m here to help. Please reach out so we can work together to achieve bliss through restful sleep.

Chastity Van Pelt has been a Family Nurse Practitioner since 2008. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Michigan State University in 2003 and her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Michigan in 2008. With 9.5 years of clinical experience in Adult and Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant, she took a career break in 2018 to focus on motherhood. Following the birth of her second child, Chastity faced significant sleep deprivation, prompting
her to seek help from a certified sleep consultant. Through a few behavioral adjustments, her daughter began sleeping independently after 13 months of disrupted sleep. This personal experience highlighted the profound impact of behavior change on sleep, inspiring Chastity to establish her business.

To combine her nurse practitioner expertise with her parenting journey, she became a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant in early 2023. Chastity is the founder of BLISS Pediatric Sleep Support, where she collaborates with parents to address their child’s sleep challenges and develops educational webinars for both parents and healthcare professionals. She resides in Ashburn, Virginia, with her husband and two children. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and has a passion for running.

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I'm a beach bum from New York, living life with a cup of coffee in one hand and a camera in the other.




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