More TV, Less Sleep for Kids

Television time for children related to reduced amount of sleep

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Sleep is very important to health, especially for children who are still physically developing. Anything that might interfere with sleep, such as TV, might lead to poor long-term habits.

A recent study found that children tended to get slightly less sleep with the more TV they watched. The most dramatic drop in daily sleep time, however, was linked to having a TV in the bedroom for minority children.

The authors suggested that reducing TV time and/or removing televisions from children's bedrooms might help their sleep time.

"Limit your child's TV time."

The study, led by Elizabeth Cespedes, of the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School, looked at the possible impact of television of children's sleep.

The researchers collected daily average TV viewing information and sleep time from the parents of 1,864 children, starting at 6 months old and then once a year through age 7.

The researchers also gathered information on which children had a TV in their bedroom when they were aged 4 through 7.

Then the researchers analyzed the interaction of television viewing and sleep along with the children's age, sex, race/ethnicity, income and mothers' education level.

The group of children were diverse, including 35 percent who were racial/ethnic minorities and 37 percent who had family incomes of at least $70,000.

The children went from getting an average 12.2 hours of sleep each day at age 6 months old to an average of 9.8 hours a day at age 7.

During the same time span, the amount of TV the children watched increased from 0.9 hours a day to 1.6 hours a day.

About 17 percent of the children had a TV in their bedrooms when they were 4 years old, which increased to 23 percent by the time the children were 7 years old.

In comparing TV viewing time with sleep, the researchers found that each additional hour per day of watching TV was linked to seven fewer minutes of sleep each day.

Having a TV in children's room also appeared to influence how much sleep the children got, but only for racial/ethnic minority children.

Among racial and ethnic minorities, children got an average 31 fewer minutes of sleep each day if they had a TV in their bedrooms than if they didn't have a TV.

Among white, non-Hispanic children, however, a TV in the bedroom was only linked to eight fewer minutes of sleep each day, but this finding could have been the result of chance.

"Our study supports a negative influence of TV viewing and bedroom TV on children’s sleep," the researchers wrote.

"TV viewing and the presence of a bedroom TV track over time," they added. "Thus, modest decreases in sleep duration could form lasting habits leading to substantial sleep deficits as children age."

The researchers suggested that making changes related to children's TV viewing could have a positive impact on their sleep time.

"Given the associations between greater TV viewing and shorter sleep suggested by this study and the strong evidence that greater TV viewing and shorter sleep are associated with poor outcomes, screen time interventions have the potential to improve sleep," the authors wrote.

The study was published April 14 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 12, 2014
Last Updated:
April 14, 2014