Watching TV Before Bed Ruins Young Kids’ Sleep

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

I may be old fashioned, but I strongly believe that the effects of technology are harmful to kids. Flickering electronic screens, whether from TV or cell phones or tablets or computers, along with excitable viewing content, is no way to promote sleep – not for an adult, and certainly not for a young child. Indeed, a 2015 Italian study based on questionnaires filled out by the parents of 100 healthy children with a mean age of 2.7 years of age shows us that the presence of a TV set in a pre-school child’s room can affect sleep quality.

Researchers found that both the presence of a TV and watching TV before bed  in the evening were associated with “significantly worse sleep quality.”

Total sleep time and TV viewing time were similar among the children. However, those with a bedroom TV set (51% of the kids) were said to have significantly higher scores for “sleep terrors,” “nightmares,” “sleep talking,” and “tired when waking up.” Evening TV watching had significantly higher scores, as well, compared to watching TV earlier in the day.

The study gives further evidence of the effects of technology on health. Inadequate sleep in childhood has been linked to poor mental and physical health. This study adds to considerable evidence already showing that TV viewing and the presence of a bedroom TV raises the risk of inadequate sleep in older kids and adolescents.

Parents have to take a firm stand when it comes to electronics and children. Get the TV out of young kids’ bedrooms and keep them away from TV in the evening. Rather, take this important family time to bond with kids: read them stories, play games, wrap up homework, have some craft time. Everyone in the family will benefit from time well spent together as opposed to plugged into the TV (not to mention, better sleep for the kids usually means better sleep for parents)!


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