Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Evening Screen Time Negatively Affects Kids' Sleep

Many young children have a problem going to sleep when it is their bed time. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that children between the ages of 3 and 5 had trouble sleeping if they had screen time after 7 p.m. Screen time includes television, video games or the computer. The amount of violent content in the program or game appears to be a contributing factor.

According to the study, about 20 percent of the 112 children involved had sleep problems almost every day of the week. Their issues included difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night, nightmares and being sleepy during the day. The children who watched violent television at night had the most sleep problems.

A hundred children averaged a half hour of nighttime television, and 28 percent of the group had difficulty sleeping. When it came to violent television, 60 of the children averaged about an hour daily. About 37 percent had trouble sleeping. Television is often a stimulant to small children. Evening viewing may lead to increased alertness, and prevent them from winding down for bedtime. The findings demonstrate the importance that parents monitor the amount of television young children watch so they meet their sleep needs.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Dr. Marc Weissbluth a sleep disorders specialist at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital, said children get ready for sleep with nighttime rituals that communicate that it is time for rest. Many families mistakenly believe that watching television helps their children go sleep, so they put televisions in their children’s room. Weissbluth suggests bedtime stories or cuddling with parents as healthier alternatives to television.

The findings are consistent with another study on bedtime routines published in the May 2009 issue of SLEEP. The study found that a healthy bedtime routine improves the sleep of infants and toddlers.

Image by Sean Dreilinger

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