MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Doctors are warning parents about something their kids are increasingly exposed to and it may be playing a key role in disrupting their sleep.

The latest research shows that nighttime exposure to blue light – mainly from computers, smartphones, tablets and e-readers — is particularly harmful.

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Dr. Keith Cavanaugh of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota says exposure to blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, wreaking havoc on a child or teenager’s sleep pattern.

“Melatonin is a very important hormone that tells the body when it should sleep. And if you have exposure to light at the wrong times, then you can have problems getting to sleep,” Cavanaugh said.

He recommends putting those devices away at least one hour before bedtime.

“School starts early, the alarm clock goes off, [and] they’re deprived of sleep,” Cavanaugh said. “Anyone with a child knows when they don’t get enough sleep, they are very crabby. They don’t function well,”

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Cavanaugh says there’s plenty of evidence that lack of enough sleep contributes to behavioral problems in children as well as overeating and obesity.

“Almost 70 percent of kids have some type of technology in their bedroom and the presence of these things has significant consequences in them getting sleep, which ultimately leads to them having trouble in school, functioning well in sports and gaining weight,” Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh says you can help limit the blue light your kids are exposed to by changing the settings to dim the screen on the device. Also, try to use those devices earlier in the day, not at bedtime. TV screens are included in this as well.

Blue light exposure may cause vision problems, too. Optometrists have noted an increase in the number of young people with retinal stress, which could lead to early onset of macular degeneration, also known as chronic eye disease.

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