Scientists from the University of Colorado in Boulder believe that light before falling asleep and during sleep is much more harmful for children than for adults, as it leads to a sharp drop in the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Children’s eyes have larger pupils and a more transparent lens than those of adults. It has been proven, for example, that blue light passes through a baby’s eye 1.2 times better than through an adult’s eye.
The study involved 36 3–5‑year-olds. For 9 days, scientists tracked their sleep and reaction to light using a wrist monitor. For a week, the children lived on a set schedule to set their circadian clock to produce the sleep hormone.
On the 8th day, the rooms where the children lived turned into a “cave” without access to external light. Saliva samples were taken from the subjects during the day during wakefulness and the melatonin index was measured. On the 9th day, the children sat in gadgets before going to bed. The illumination intensity varied from 5 to 5000 lux.
According to the data obtained, even in very low light, melatonin production was suppressed by 70–99% compared to the norm.
It is important that, unlike adults, the relationship between the brightness of light and the degree of suppression of melatonin production was not revealed in babies. Even with lighting of 5–40 lux, which is significantly dimmer than the usual light in the room, melatonin began to be produced 78% worse. The production of the sleep hormone did not recover even 50 minutes after the blackout.
Scientists believe that this does not mean the immediate abandonment of nightlights and the transition to falling asleep in complete darkness. But this definitely means that you should abandon any gadgets an hour before bedtime and reduce lighting when falling asleep to a minimum.
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