Up All Night: Do Video Games and TV Keep Kids From Sleeping?

TV before bedtime…an American tradition.

More often than not, my wife and I reserve the hour before our kid’s go to bed for a little TV time; some Dora, maybe a little Dog Whisperer.

In our minds, it has always been the period where we wanted them to wind down and begin to get ready for sleep.

But according to new research results out of New Zealand published in the journal Pediatrican  and written about in the MD Mama blog at, it seems as if we’ve been barking up the wrong tree when it comes to a smooth transition to La-La Land for our kids.

The study looked at every single thing that a group of 2,000 children between the ages of 5-18 did in the 90 minutes before they went to sleep; everything from bathroom activity to looking at a book to watching TV.

And, as the article points out,  it turns out that the kids who did something other than TV or video games, like reading or taking a bath before bed, who fell asleep faster. The kids who did play video games or watch television in that hour and a half leading up to “lights out” fell asleep later than kids who were doing something else before bedtime.


Well, as pediatrician Dr. Claire McCarthy (who did not officially participate in the study) explains in a great piece on her MD Mama blog, there are several possible reasons:

  • Screen time often pushes bedtime later. (“Mom, can I just see the end of this show?” “I’m almost done with this level!”) When there is a TV in the bedroom, this can be an even bigger problem.
  • The “blue light” emitted from the screens lowers melatonin level and so messes up the circadian rhythms that help kids fall asleep. So when they say they aren’t sleepy, they mean it.
  • Scary or exciting shows or video games have a way of making you, well, scared or excited. It’s not easy to fall asleep when you feel that way.

These are very sensible explanations, of course, but to be completely honest, I have sometimes wondered why my daughter and son (ages 4 and 2) seem to fall asleep very quickly when we put them to bed each night despite the fact that they have been watching television until the moment we rounded them up and eased them up to their rooms for sleep.

It always seemed to me that TV could get a toddler pretty riled up when you least wanted them to be (just like this study indicates), but it just never really happened to my kids that way.

So, the only reason that I can come up with is that they have been on such a regimented bedtime schedule since they were infants. Their bodies are almost pre-programmed to sack out at the same time every single night, no matter what they’re doing before bed.

Which leads me to wonder: is it possible that a very regular sleep schedule has big benefits for your child?

OR, and this is a big OR, are my kids still too young to be getting the full charge-up from TV before bed that the kids in the study (ages 5-18) were getting?

I guess that’s a question for a different study.

But what do you think? What are your experiences?

Are TV and video games bad news for your kids at bedtime?

Info source: Mama



Article Posted 4 years Ago

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