Screen time is affecting student sleep cycles

By Gracie Ozburn | Contributor

With COVID-19 forcing many schools to switch to an online platform, students have been glued to their screens more than ever. The hours that are being spent on devices are not only taking students away from the outside world, but are also affecting their brains, which can lead to bad sleep schedules.

Stanford student Conrad Safranek conducted an experiment where he studied 16 students and tracked their screen activity. He found that students at Stanford on average spend 78% of their daytime staring at a device after this recent switch to online college classes.

While online learning platforms have contributed to the amount of screen time for students, it isn’t the only thing to blame. Many students have had this problem before this with an addiction to their smartphones thanks to apps. When students are bored, need to relax, reach out to someone, look at time or even check the weather, their hands start to reach for their phones.

I know this to be true for me personally. I stay up past a reasonable time because I will tell myself, “one more episode” on Netflix. According to the Sleep Foundation website, blue light from device screens slows down the release of melatonin and can cause you to feel more alert and awake. These blue lights cause a reset in your body.

The effect that the blue light has can cause people to feel awake at night and can also lead people to believe they have insomnia. Not only does it affect when someone may go to bed, but it also makes them more tired the next morning, which can cause a lack of focus and energy the rest of the day.

According to Healthline’s website, the lack of sleep can have many negative results. It can cause fatigue, a weakened immune system, poor judgement and can even cause weight gain. Poor sleep is also linked to depression. This is why it is important to put the device down and make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep.

Some solutions for students to do on their own are to turn off all devices a half hour to an hour before bed and plug their phones in across the room so they don’t have easy access to check on it. This will help ease their minds and give them time to relax.

When doing homework, put other devices away so you are only focusing on the assignment at task. It’s also important to take a break. Take a walk, journal, draw, read, hang with a friend; do anything to give your mind a break.

School can provide activities for students on campus to help limit excessive screen time. Things like socially distanced yoga or events like free coffee can help students decompress and take a break from staring at screen for hours at a time.

It is important to give space from the screens that consume our everyday lives. Not only does it affect us during the day, but it affects one of the most important things that can determine our emotional and physical state the next day — our sleep schedules. Even though there is no denying that our devices have been very convenient in our lives, are they doing more damage than helping us?