Introduction Sleep onset difficulties may be worsened by exposure to artificial lights from modern electronic media with wavelengths similar to day light, potentially inhibiting the action of the sleep hormone melatonin responsible for sleep-wake cycle. A lot of current sleep hygiene advice for patients/families lack specific advice about the role of artificial lights in suppressing natural melatonin production.
Aims/objectives We examined pre bedtime/bedtime activities and sleep hygiene practices in special needs /non special needs children with sleep difficulties and explored level of pre-bedtime exposure to artificial lights from modern electronic media including computers, cell phones and digital television.
Methods Sleep hygiene surveys were conducted separately in carers of children with special needs-ADHD (6–18 years), pre-school children with Autism Spectrum disorder (3–5 years) and a non special needs population of 500 primary school children in a socially deprived area from periods June 2013 to March 2014.
Results Children in both special needs and non-special needs populations kept some form of electronic media in their bedrooms (26%) and played with these or watched television within ½-2 h (44%) before bedtime. Electronic device exposure was highest in the ADHD group (54%). Majority (68%) of carers in the ADHD cohort reported some improvement in sleep onset difficulties when they followed advice regarding switching electronic media off at least an hour before bedtime.
Conclusions There is an urgent need for Health and Educational Professionals to educate families about the role of modern electronic media/TV on the sleep cycle of children when conducting sleep education/hygiene.
There should be more public health awareness and research about the impact of modern electronic media and artificial lights on sleep in children with/without special needs and neurodevelopment disorders.
Outcome Following surveys, sleep tools have been developed to enable health and educational professionals conduct a more effective sleep interview and hygiene. Tools have been widely circulated to GPs, Health professionals and over 200 mental health Leads in schools. They have also been circulated on the National Child Trust UK website (NCTUK).
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