How is Technology Affecting Kids’ Sleep?

Last updated on March 14th, 2024 at 06:36 pm

Kids now have access to more technology, from TikTok and Xbox to Instagram and YouTube. And it might not be the best thing for sweet dreams! Our orthopaedic expert Bethany Lawerence reveals that all this time online is proving to be a real pain in the neck. Beth shockingly tells us that clients as young as six are some of those she sees most regularly, and she treats them for neck and spinal problems.

So, what part does technology play in all of this, and how does it impact the quality and quantity of their sleep?

Let’s dive in!

How does technology cause neck problems?

If you’re reading this in an office, coffee shop, or on your morning commute, take a look around. Chances are you will catch someone with their head bowed down, looking at their phone, engaging with technology. Research papers and professionals now call this phenomenon ‘tech neck’ or ‘text neck’, referring to the motion of looking down and stressing your muscles and tissue structures of the cervical spine. “Prolonged phone/technology usage results in a forward head posture; for every inch that your head moves forwards it puts an additional 10 pounds of weight through your neck and associated structures. Our cervical spine (neck) is not meant to withstand such force outside of its usual neutral position, which means that it can result in muscular and ligamentous strain,” Bethany says. This condition worsens the longer people spend on their devices, ’ Bethany says. When you look down at a screen, your muscles in the back of the neck work hard to keep your head up. Over the day, they get tired, resulting in a ‘tech neck’. A recent study revealed that in the UK, nearly a third of people spend over 3 hours a day on their phones and check them on average every 12 minutes of the waking day – that’s a lot of hunching over technology and our necks, especially those of our younger ones, are certainly feeling the strain. 

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What are the symptoms of ‘tech neck’?

If your little one is complaining about any of the following, they could be experiencing ‘tech neck’:

  • Headaches – “Many of my youngest clients often suffer from headaches,” Bethany tells us, which can be caused by aching necks.

  • Stiffness in the neck – “Keeping your neck in one position for a long time can lead to stiffness and immobility”, Bethany explains.

  • Neck Spasms – “Muscle strain can lead to neck spasms”, Bethany tells us, “these can be very uncomfortable for little ones”

  • Aching in the lower shoulders and back – This can be caused by hunching over for long periods of time.

How do neck problems affect kids’ sleep?

Sore, stiff necks can make it very difficult to get comfortable and settle into sleep. If little ones drift off ok, spasms can often wake them up – and more discomfort can arise from staying in one position for too long. “If you are suffering from neck pain, it can affect your ability to find a comfortable sleep position to support your cervical spine properly. We also know that levels of inflammation can be higher at night time and that most pain/stiffness is relieved with movement, therefore remaining in a sedentary state and often unsupported position for a prolonged period of time overnight can further affect both the quality and duration of your sleep” says Bethany. Over time, this can severely affect wellbeing, resulting in irritability and low immunity. The best thing to do is seek the advice of a professional to address the problem and take measures to reduce their symptoms.

What are some of the things that can help ease neck pain for little ones?

The good news for little ones with sore necks is there are plenty of ways they can nip the pain in the bud. Bethany explains, “There are simple exercises they can do at home that will help increase mobility, reduce stiffness and resolve muscle strain.” Beyond that, certain lifestyle changes can be made to not only resolve neck problems but stop them from coming back.

Here are our Ortho’s top tips for allowing kids to enjoy technology while keeping life comfortable;

    • It’s all about balance – Banning technology altogether will not go down well and is challenging considering how the world today interacts. Technology is not going anywhere, though there is a way to strike a balance – monitoring time on phones and screens is one of the most effective and simple ways to reduce ‘tech neck’ and create a healthier lifestyle. Try engaging little ones in all of the wonderful things they can do offline. Scheduling ‘technology time’ and ensuring they stick to specific, shorter sessions will prevent the stiffness and strain that comes from long periods of hunching over.

    • Pillow support – An orthopaedic-grade pillow that keeps the spine and neck aligned will give them the support they need for a comfortable night’s sleep. Memory foam is a great option, as the advanced foam naturally contours to their sleeping position. The Panda Bamboo Kids™ Pillow is a great choice, with different loft sizes to ensure healthy growth and development for all ages.


    • Regular movement – Encouraging little ones to move regularly, whether by playing outside, walking or doing neck exercises at home, can improve circulation and mobility, reducing and preventing further neck problems. A professional orthopaedic expert can help advise on the best movements for your little one based on their symptoms.

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The Take Away

Technology is an unavoidable part of modern life, being at the core of how little ones learn, interact and entertain themselves. However, too much time online is leading to neck problems, disrupting their sleep. Simple measures such as restricting their time online, encouraging regular movement and upgrading their pillow to one with proper, orthopaedic-grade support can help keep life and bedtime healthy and comfortable.

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