Night Time Use of Tech Devices May Cause Sleep Disturbances

Night Time Use of Tech Devices May Cause Sleep Disturbances

Many individuals with autism enjoy using tech devices such as tablets and the iPhone, but a new study shows that their use at night can cause sleep disturbances due to reduced levels of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that typically increases in the evening and helps induce sleepiness.

“During a two-week inpatient experiment involving a dozen adults, some participants were asked to read on an iPad for four hours each night before bedtime, for five consecutive nights. Others read printed books in dim light. After a week, the groups switched.” The results – participants using iPads had reduced levels of melatonin, took longer to fall asleep, and spent less time in restorative rapid-eye movement sleep.

As electronic devices become more prevalent, we could see a rise in long-term health issues due to a significant loss of sleep. For example, a persistent lack of sleep has been associated with obesity and diabetes.

While this study did not involve people with ASD, it is a cautionary tale as this population often experiences sleep difficulties. It is important to have a regular routine around bedtime that involves bathing at least one hour before bed, low arousal activities, a dark room to sleep in, and limiting the use of tech devices before bed.

If your child is struggling with sleep issues, have a look at Solving Sleep Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for Frazzled Families or Sleep Well on the Autism SpectrumThe National Autistic Society also has a helpful article on what causes sleep disturbances and how you can help your child with ASD sleep better.


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