Preschoolers sleep better without television at bedtime

July 8, 2011

Preschool-aged children who watched violent daytime television programming or any television before bedtime often couldn?t sleep at night, and their sleep problems increased with each additional hour of nighttime media viewing.

Preschool-aged children who watched violent daytime television programming or any television before bedtime often couldn’t sleep at night, and their sleep problems increased with each additional hour of nighttime media viewing.

In a randomized, controlled study of media use in children aged 3 to 5 years, Seattle-based researchers analyzed weeklong media diaries kept by the families of 612 preschoolers for timing, content, and use of television, video games, and computers. They coded data for evening or daytime use; content, including violence and scariness by frequency and type (mild/slapstick, fantasy, sports, realistic, or gratuitous); pacing, the frequency of rapid movement and rate of abrupt changes in background; and co-use by another adult, another child, or alone.

Findings showed that average screen time for the study population was 72.9 minutes, with 58.8 minutes occurring during daytime and 14.1 minutes after 7 pm. Evening use was more likely to be rated for older children and adults, have violent or scary content, and occur with adult co-use.

Screen time increased sleep problem scores by 0.244 for every additional hour of daily media use (PPP

Study parents were also surveyed about any sleep problems their children experienced, such as sleep-onset latency, night awakenings, nightmares, difficulty waking in the morning, and daytime tiredness. Eighteen percent of families reported that their child experienced at least 1 of the queried sleep problems 5 to 7 days per week.

When media use in children with and without a bedroom television was analyzed, screen time was shown to be significantly greater for children with a bedroom television, which added 40 minutes of viewing across the day with more violent/scary and adult content. These children also were more likely to have sleep problems (P

The researchers suggest that pediatricians advise parents to focus on reducing evening media use and exposure to violent content as ways to improve their child’s quality of sleep.

Garrison MM, Liekweg K, Christakis DA. Media use and child sleep: the impact of content, timing, and environment. Pediatrics. 2011;128(1):29-35.