When it comes time for bedtime, a lot of parents turn to the television to help their children relax and fall asleep quickly. Full House and Saved by the Bell were two of my favorite shows as a kid growing up in the 1980s. What’s the harm in allowing your children to watch television before bedtime when there are so many instructive programs to select from?
Research shows that a lot! Explore this hotly debated subject a little further to learn what the scientific community has to say about how television viewing affects children’s sleep patterns.
The Truth About TV & Sleep
Researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand have found that media use before naps or bedtime is bad for both children and adults.
During the 90 minutes leading up to their bedtimes, the study examined the number of times children and teens spent playing video games or watching television. They came to the conclusion that children who watched more TV and played more video games before going to bed had more difficulty falling asleep than children who watched less or no TV or video games before night.
Parents who frequently use television as a part of their children’s naps or bedtime rituals will be pleased to hear this news. As a parent, be aware that allowing your child to watch television before bedtime could be making it harder for them to go asleep.
A Time-Honored Tradition
Why Could It Be a Problem?
Delayed Sleep Cycle
Many people long for the simpler times of yesteryear when kids played outside more and families raised their children in close proximity rather than in seclusion. Back then, it seemed like the only things kids had to worry about were who was “it” for hide-and-seek and whether Mom was cooking that dreadful meatloaf dish for dinner again. Sadly, as children’s usage of technology and screen time has increased, so has their level of anxiety.
The WHO and AAP both recommend that children’s screen time be limited to one hour of instructional programming or less, but youngsters are still watching hours of TV every day and seeing pictures that are meant for adults only. Young children may internalize their anxieties and feel anxious if they lack the mental capacity to rationalize what they have seen.
Youngsters who watched television before bed were more likely to wake up during the night, according to a study of 495 children. 153 university students were asked about their childhood experiences with scary media, and 90% of them said they had encountered it as a child, creating residual fear in more than 26% of them.
If you’ve ever had a nightmare after viewing a terrifying movie, you’re not the only one. Stephen King, thank you for making me wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat after a particularly frightening dream about a clown. When youngsters watch television before going to sleep, they are more likely to suffer from nightmares.
It was found that children who saw violent images on television before bedtime had greater nightmares and difficulty falling and staying asleep, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Pediatrics Children who had televisions in their bedrooms were more likely to suffer sleep terrors and nightmares, according to new research of 100 healthy children. In addition, watching television in the evening was found to be more disruptive than watching during the day.
Blue light, a hot-button topic in recent years, has also attracted a lot of media attention. The circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock, has been proven to be harmed by artificial blue light emitted from screens and other electronic devices. Due to its ability to postpone the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, artificial light has the potential to increase alertness and disturb sleep cycles.
In reaction to dimming light, the pineal gland typically starts releasing melatonin a few hours before bedtime. To avoid this, people should avoid blue light from electronic screens, fluorescent lamps, and LED lights. People who are exposed to blue light in the evening may find it more difficult to fall asleep, lessen the quality of their REM sleep, and wake up feeling fatigued even after getting enough sleep.
Different Effects on Different Ages
Toddlers & Preschoolers
Shows aimed at children under the age of four are one of the fastest-growing segments of Netflix’s programming. These cute presentations, which feature catchy melodies educating children about numbers, shapes, and the alphabet, are hard to resist. It’s unfortunate, but many parents (myself included) have misunderstood this as a “license” of sorts, rationalizing increased screen time as “educational.”
Watching TV with young children has never been found to be particularly beneficial, educational, or otherwise. In this age group, the World Health Organization recommends that children obtain between 10 and 14 hours of sleep per day to ensure proper growth and development. In these early years, children should only watch one hour of television per day, yet even this little amount might have detrimental impacts.
Researchers studying screen time in kids 24 months old and younger discovered that every hour of screen time cut down on overall sleep time by about half an hour!. Preschoolers who watch less TV each day get an extra 22 minutes of sleep each night, totaling 2.5 more hours per week than those who watch more than one hour each day. As a result, preschoolers who did not have televisions in their bedrooms slept 30 minutes longer at night than those who did.
It’s common for children to spend fewer and fewer hours sleeping as they get older and spend more and more time in front of a computer or other device. Kids in this age group frequently watch television in the mornings before school, may be exposed to television as part of their school day, and commonly watch television in the evenings before bed.
School-aged children who spend a lot of time in front of the television are less likely to get a good night’s sleep, according to research. The researchers also discovered that “children younger than 8 years may be unable to discern between real life and fiction” as a result of “violent sequences in animated features.”
More than any other age group, teenagers spend most of their time watching television, playing video games, or surfing the Internet. According to some estimates, adolescents between the ages of 8 and 18 spend up to 9 hours a day utilizing entertainment media.
Media use has been linked to decreased sleep at night (leading teens to sleep in later in the morning), as well as increased exhaustion, among adolescents. Research of 55 adolescents found that media use after bedtime was associated with a later onset of sleep and a worse level of sleep efficiency. When it comes to TV time, teens who have regulations in place sleep an extra 30 minutes per night, according to the Sleep in America Poll from 2006.
On the Other Hand…
Why Does Watching TV Before Naps and Bed Make It Harder to Fall Asleep?
According to the study’s findings, youngsters who spend time watching television or playing video games have their brains stimulated, making it more difficult for them to wind down and drift off to sleep.
Researchers also found that children’s circadian cycles may be affected by the backlighting from television and gaming system screens. Due to the fact that our circadian rhythms are crucial for informing us of the proper times for falling asleep and waking up, anything that disrupts these cycles will also disrupt our ability to sleep.
What Happens If My Toddler or Preschooler Doesn’t Get Enough Sleep?
An hour less sleep a week was found for youngsters who spent 30 minutes or more watching TV or playing video games before bed. That may not seem like much, but medical professionals concur that sleep deprivation has long-term consequences.
Chronic sleep deprivation is also extremely harmful to children’s health. A lack of sleep can have serious repercussions on a child’s development, and we’ve highlighted this in a number of pieces.
- Sleep deprivation can lead to behavioral issues in young children, including toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary school students.
- ADHD diagnoses have been linked to sleep problems that induce sleep deprivation, such as sleep apnea and
- Restless Leg Syndrome. Of course, television won’t create sleep disorders, but we need to ensure that these children get enough sleep.
- In young children, sleep deprivation can cause depression.
- Over time, a lack of sleep can cause a youngster to gain weight and become obese.
The bottom message is that persistent sleep deprivation is bad for a child’s general health, especially for a toddler or preschooler. Dr. Roya Samuels, a pediatrician who was involved in the study, points out that the findings are consistent with previous research.
8 Bedtime Rituals Instead of TV
Children who watch television before bed could be less likely to get a good night’s sleep and more likely to suffer from anxiety or nightmares, depending on what they’re watching.
Sleep is essential for a variety of reasons, including improving cognition, preserving health, and balancing emotions. As a parent, I’m disturbed enough by the data to change my family’s TV viewing policy. Our bedtime routine will look a lot like books, a bath, and a good night’s sleep instead of a movie night on the couch.