It’s no secret that screen time affects our brains, but the blue light emitted from all types of screens particularly affects children & teens. Blue light prevents the pineal gland, a pea-sized organ in the brain from releasing melatonin, the hormone responsible for reducing alertness and makes sleep more inviting. Blue light also suppresses delta wavelength production in the brain, which induces sleep; As well as boosts alpha waves, which cause alertness.
You don’t have to stare directly at a screen for its rays to affect you: If enough blue light hits the eye, the gland can stop releasing melatonin. So, if your bedtime routine includes watching TV or taking your tablet or laptop to bed with you, this physically makes it harder to sleep, especially for sleep-deprived teenagers who are more vulnerable to the effects of light than adults.
“Teenagers have all the same risk of light exposure, but they are systematically sleep-deprived because of how society works against their natural clocks,” says sleep researcher Steven Lockley of Harvard Medical School. “Asking a teenager to get up at 7 a.m. is like asking me to get up at 4 a.m.”
A 2014 poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that more than half of 15-to-17-year-olds routinely get seven hours of sleep per night or less. The recommended amount for teens is 8 ½ to 10 hours. 68% of these teens were also said to keep an electronic device on all night-a television, computer, video game or something similar. It was also reported that sleep quality was better among children 6 to 17 who always turned their devices off: 45% of them were described as having excellent sleep quality vs. 25% of those who sometimes left devices on.
A study investigated by Figueiro found that when comparing melatonin levels of adults and teenagers looking at computer screens, she was astonished by the younger group’s light sensitivity. Even when exposed to just one-tenth as much light as adults were, the teens actually suppressed more melatonin than older people.
Another study showed that teens who either excessively played video games or had intensive phone use were associated with poor perceived health, particularly when it negatively affected sleeping habits, which in turn was associated with increased waking-time tiredness. Girls with intensive phone use were also found to have more musculoskeletal symptoms both directly and through deteriorated sleep. A lack of sleep has been associated with ongoing depression, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Musculoskeletal problems due to tech use are also becoming more of a problem amongst children and teens. “Text Neck” is a new term for chronic flexion and anterior head malposition. When the head sits correctly above the body-with the ears over the shoulders with the shoulder blades pulled back-the head weighs approximately 10-12 lbs. For every inch forward the head moves, the heavier it is and more stress it puts on the neck musculature and spinal cord.
A study by the Surgical Technology International quantified this problem: As the head tilts forward 15 degrees from neutral, the forces on the cervical spine and supporting musculature increases to 27 lbs. As the tilt increases, the forces increase to 40 lbs at 30 degrees, 49 lbs at 45 degrees and 60 lbs at 60 degrees. This malposition also loads the discs in the spine-eccentrically loading the spine causes cracks in the discs, slipped or herniated discs. This leads to stenosis or blockage of the spine, says Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine. It can also cause pinched nerves, arthritis, bone spurs and muscular deformations.
To prevent developing tech-induced sleep deprivation and text-neck-shut the phones, TVs, computers, tablets, etc. off at least a half hour before bedtime. Hold hand-held devices at eye level. There are also apps available to warn you when your posture is not correct while on your device-The Text Neck Institute has developed the Text Neck Indicator, an interactive app that alerts users when their smartphones are held at an angle that puts them at risk for text neck.
Dr. Jessica Eckman, DC
July 4, 2018
Functional Endocrinology of Ohio
Akron: 2800 S. Arlington Road, Akron, Ohio 44312 (330) 644-5488
Cleveland: 6200 Rockside Woods Blvd., Ste. 100, Independence, Ohio 44131 (216) 236-0060
Dr. Keith S. Ungar, Dr. Jessica Eckman, Chiropractic Physicians