Viewing TV linked to irregular sleep patterns, poor sleep and later bedtimes

Viewing TV, especially before bedtime, is linked to irregular sleep patterns for the kid’s.

A growing body of research is finding that infants and children under the age of 3 who watch TV — even too much TV during the day — struggle with interrupted sleep and irregular bed and naptime schedules.

A recent study found that children under age 3 who watch television are at higher risk of disturbed sleep. Other studies have looked at the effects of TV viewing on older children and teens, and also found a link between TV, poor sleep and later bedtimes.

Researchers examined data from a national health survey of children aged 4 months to 35 months, and evaluated parent interviews for more than 2,000 children. The result: 27 percent of the youngsters had irregular bedtime schedules, and almost 34 percent had irregular nap schedules.

But here’s the kicker — the number of hours of television viewed was associated with a greater likelihood of an irregular sleep schedule, although no cause-and-effect relationship could be definitively established. On average, the babies younger than 12 months watched 0.9 hours of television; those 12 months to 23 months watched 1.6 hours daily; and those 24 months to 35 months watched 2.3 hours a day.

A regular sleep schedule is important, because it influences the quality and quantity of sleep that children get. And, healthy sleep habits can prevent problems such as bedtime resistance or nighttime awakenings.

One possible explanation is that television viewing causes irregular sleep schedules. Another is that irregular sleep leads to more TV viewing, a kind of vicious cycle.

Another uncertainty is whether the timing of television viewing, before bedtime, has an impact on sleep. In theory, children who watch a lot of shows with content that is violent or inappropriate for their age could have sleep disturbances no matter when they watched those shows. Others would argue that viewing disturbing content before bedtime impedes sleep.

If you struggling with child who’s troubled by troubled sleep, the National Institutes of Health offers these suggestions:

  • Set a regular time for bed each night and stick to it.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, such as giving your child a warm bath or reading him or her a story.
  • Make after-dinner playtime a relaxing time. Too much activity close to bedtime can keep children awake.
  • Avoid feeding children big meals close to bedtime.
  • Avoid giving children anything with caffeine less than six hours before bedtime.
  • Set the bedroom temperature so that it’s comfortable — not too warm and not too cold.
  • Make sure the bedroom is dark. If necessary, use a small nightlight.
  • Keep the noise level low.