Need another reason to limit your kids' screen time? New research shows that exposure to the artificial lights from computers and electronics may make it more difficult to get to sleep - particularly for kids.

The study, led by Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, found that when kids are exposed to artificial light from computers and other electronic gadgets in the late afternoon and evening, it can disrupt sleep cycles as much as six to eight hours - causing a feeling similar to "jet lag."

"Technology has disconnected us from the natural 24-hour day," Dr. Czeisler said in a keynote lecture at a recent meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Basically, the blue light from all of these gadgets mimics bright daylight that makes our brains think that it is still daytime. Research shows that exposure to artificial light stimulates the production of cortisol which makes you more alert.

Dr. Czeisler has found that light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are twice as effective at stimulating the brain's cortisol production as incandescent light. In his studies, college students exposed to even brief periods of blue light late in the day experienced a delayed sleep time by up to two hours. As the energy-efficient light source of choice, LEDs have become ubiquitous in everything from televisions to tablets, to energy-saving lamps.

Of particular concern is the effect that LEDs are having on the sleep patterns of kids. More and more schools are handing out laptops and tablets in an effort to keep kids on the cutting edge when it comes to academics. But without any caution about the effect these gadgets could have on a student's sleep patterns, Czeisler and other sleep experts worry that any benefit gained with these electronics may be negated by lost sleep among students.

Bottom line: If your child is having trouble sleeping, you might want to take a closer look at the amount, and the type, of light she is exposed to throughout the day.

[via: Education Week]

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