Friday, February 5, 2016

Is Technology Affecting Your Rett Girl's Sleep?

by Megan Nunn

Many of our girls (like ourselves!) are highly motivated and even calmed by devices like iPads and smart phones. I’ll never forget how excited I was when one of Ava’s therapists opened our eyes to how helpful and appropriate these tools can be for our girls. When nothing else motivates our almost three-year-old, it is absolutely amazing the things she will do to watch a movie or play a game on her iPad.

These high-tech tools are not without a price, though. The blue light they emit has been shown to decrease melatonin*, which is needed to regulate sleep. Sleep disturbance is a big concern for Rett girls because they typically already have decreased and sporadic nighttime rest, which contributes to a myriad of problems in the day time, from lethargy to trouble concentrating to mood swings.  Sleep deficits also lower the seizure threshold and can precipitate or exacerbate seizures, which is a huge concern for many of our girls. In addition, chronic exposure to blue light may cause macular degeneration, especially in children.

Fortunately, the effects of blue light can be addressed and minimized with a few quick tweaks to the girls’ normal routines. Keep in mind that these tips also apply to computers, television, and smart devices. 

To minimize sleep disruption:

1. Turn off devices two hours before bedtime. If your daughter needs to use one, choose the smallest device available (such as a phone instead of a tablet).

2. Aim to give the girls time outdoors everyday, especially in the mornings, to assist melatonin production and promote a healthy circadian rhythm.

3. Dim the screen brightness on your smart devices later in the day to help the girls’ bodies prepare to rest. For iOS cell phones or tablets, you can adjust the settings at night from your settings screen. Go to General, then Accessibility, then Invert Colors.

4. Screen shields for your devices may also help and are inexpensive- these can be found online at sites like

5. Try a blue-light minimizing app specific for your device:
6.  More blue-light minimizing products:

We hope you and your families have a happy night’s sleep while benefiting from all of the great technology available to us!

Guest blogger Megan Nunn is a pharmacist and mom to two beautiful girls, Ava (RTT) and Cecelia.  

* Source:
Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School