We know that toddlers and hours of TV don’t really mix — too much screen time has been linked with obesity, social problems, and more.
But today in a new study in Pediatrics, researchers report specifically on the link between certain kinds of TV viewing and sleep problems in children ages three to five.
Researchers studied the “media diaries” of 612 families to look at when, what, and where kids were watching TV, playing video games or using the computer. They coded the shows for their content.
The average preschooler in this study had 73 minutes of screen time daily, with an average of 14 minutes after 7:00 p.m.
But certain family TV habits made kids more likely to have a sleep problem, like difficulty falling asleep, waking in the night, nightmares, or daytime sleepiness:
Each evening hour of screen time was associated with a significant increase in sleep problems. That makes sense, since media use in the late evening before bed is also linked to sleep troubles in adults (partly because the light from screens sends a wake-up signal to the brain). Kids may have an equally hard time winding down with TV and especially close-range devices like iPads, or it could make them more likely to wake during the night.
Also, watching violent daytime shows upped the risk of sleep problems, as did having a TV in the child’s room (kids with TVs in their rooms watched an average of 40 minutes more TV per day).
Daytime non-violent TV didn’t affect sleep.
What are the parameters around TV in your house, and do they have anything to do with protecting your child’s sleep?