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Watching TV Before Bedtime Ruins Sleep

Jan 16th, 2013

Watching TV Before BedtimeChildren who are staring at computer screens and watching TV before bedtime may have difficulty falling asleep, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand studied more than 2,000 children between 5 and 18 years old. They were asked to record all their activities 90 minutes before going to bed such as watching TV, playing video games, studying, or going to the bathroom. They were also asked to note their onset of sleep as very early, early, late, and very late.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that watching TV was the top pre-bedtime activity among all the participants, taking about 30 of the 90 minutes on average.

Kids who slept late had 13 more minutes of TV viewing than their early-sleeping counterparts, the study found.

“The development of interventions to reduce screen-based behaviors in the presleep period may promote earlier sleep onset and ultimately improved sleep duration in young people,” researchers said.

Screen time pushes bedtime through several ways:

  • Kids bargain for more time to “finish the show” or “get past this level.” Having a TV in the bedroom can make matters worse.
  • The light from the screens causes melatonin levels to drop, disrupting circadian rhythms that induce sleep naturally.
  • Exciting video games and shows can stimulate the brain, making it very hard to fall asleep.

Kids who sleep earlier spend the majority of the 90 minutes doing sedentary non-screen activities (i.e. reading) and self-care activities (i.e. taking a bath).

Minimizing screen time prior to bedtime can help kids sleep earlier, said lead author Louise Foley.

“Most guidelines for watching television recommend a maximum of two hours for young people,” says Foley. “If you consider that they’re watching 30 minutes in the 90 minutes before bed alone, they’re likely exceeding that two-hour recommendation.”

Source: VISTA Health Solutions

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