Sleeping vs Scrolling - how to help your child sleep better



A recent Ofcom study found 70% of young people miss sleep because of online habits. Clinical psychologist Dr Elly Hanson and psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham explain how to manage your child’s evening routines and sleeping patterns.

Understand the value of sleep

As parents, it’s important to have a solid understanding of why sleep is so important. Discussing this with your children and explaining to them why sleep is so vital will help them to prioritise it over other activities. Recent research shows that sleep contributes to physical health, emotional wellbeing and also learning.

Cut down on light before bed

The blue light emitted from devices can be disruptive to a night’s sleep, as it confuses the body into thinking it’s daytime when it should be winding down for the night. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid using devices close to bedtime. Why not give a friend a call in the evening instead of chatting over Whatsapp?

Make bedrooms a device-free zone

All devices should be kept outside of bedrooms at night-time. This is easier said than done but you could try encouraging your child to use this time for something else, like reading a book.

Speak to other parents for advice

Setting rules around sleeping is made much harder when your child claims that all their friends are allowed to do what they’re not. If possible, speak to the parents of your child’s peers to discuss and agree the main sleeping boundaries – and stick to them!

A lie in isn’t always a bad thing

It’s important to remember that adolescents have a different circadian rhythm than younger children and adults, naturally preferring to stay up and sleep in later. You should allow teenagers to lie in when possible in the mornings but try to avoid a huge difference between weekdays and weekends.

Dr Elly Hanson is a clinical psychologist with expertise in children, young people and digital technology.

Five tips for helping your child sleep better

Psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham on how to manage your child’s sleeping patterns.

1.  Establish a regular evening routine, with 30 minutes of relaxing music, a story or a bath before bedtime.
2.  Avoid high stimulation activities such as TV, video games or social media for at least an hour before bedtime. 
3. Cut down on caffeine or fizzy drinks during the evening – or better yet, avoid altogether.
4. Make bed and wake times regular, and take your child to bed when they are sleepy but still awake. 
5.  Finally, if you want to check if they are asleep, keep it short, and try to be boring!


Dr Richard Graham is a consultant psychiatrist and member of the Executive Board of The UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS).

“Every one of us as a child hated bedtime, when we had to leave our parents or some exciting event to get the sleep we needed. And we now know, we really do need sleep! Sleep is important for learning and behaviour, growth, and staying happy. Growth hormones are released during sleep, which means a lack of sleep can affect growth, and when a sleep problem is resolved a growth spurt can often occur.”

Dr Richard Graham


This article is by Parent Zone, the experts in digital life.