Too Much Television Watching In Preschoolers Cuts Down Their Sleep Time, Says New Study

A new research by the University of Massachusetts Amherst which has been published in the Sleep Health journal has found that preschoolers who watch television sleep less than those preschoolers who do not watch TV. This study has also found that a whooping 36% of preschoolers have a television in their bedroom and of these, a third even fall asleep with the TV still on while mostly watching either violent or stimulating adult content.

The study says that this TV watching impacts the quality as well as duration of sleep of the children. It was found that children who watched TV at night increasingly napped in the middle of the day, but this nap session didn’t compensate for their lost nighttime sleep. This data is helpful because the parents of these kids thought that by letting them watch television, they were enabling their children to sleep better which is not the case.

This research has come right after the guidelines for TV watching for children by the World Health Organization have been revealed. As per WHO, children who are below the age of 5 shouldn’t spend more than an hour watching television while those below 1 year shouldn’t watch any TV at all. One of the reasons the organization gave for less screen time was better sleep for children as well.

Of the children assessed for this research, 54% watch more TV than recommended by the World Health Organization. For the purpose of this study, 470 preschoolers participated, all wearing actigraphs for 16 days. Parents or guardians filled questionnaires about the kids’ health and behavior as well as demographics. It was found:

  • Those children who watched television for less than an hour slept for 22 minutes more at night which is 2.5 hours of more sleep per week. This was in comparison to those children who watched more than one hour of television
  • Children who didn’t have a TV in their bedroom slept 30 minutes more at nighttime than those who had a TV
  • Kids who did have a TV slept overall 17 minutes less than other kids in a whole day even though they took 12-minute longer naps

The lead researchers of this study are looking to carry out more research in this area by assessing how children sleep when they use hand-held smart devices such as smartphones and iPads. Increased screen time is not only a problem because it limits sleep but also because it has other damaging effects.

A previous but recent study published in the American Medical Association journal concluded that children who watched more television, their cognitive abilities were negatively impacted. This study, which was also conducted on participants in the age bracket of 2 to 5, found that children’s memory and learning centers of the brain were impacted, and these impacts could be long-term too.

Moreover, it is well established that too much screen time damages the visual organs as well. Watching too much TV is not just bad for kids but for adults as well.