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posted: 4/22/2014 7:31 AM

Too Much TV Time Linked to Kids' Poor Sleep Habits

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Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital

Sleep is important in early childhood especially when young bodies and minds are developing quickly. A new study finds that the more time young children spend watching TV, the less likely they are to get the sleep they need, which can negatively affect their physical and mental health.

The finding published in the May issue of Pediatrics, showed that every extra hour of TV viewing time was associated with 7 fewer minutes of daily sleep time, and the link was stronger for boys than for girls.

"The connection is fairly intuitive -- in adults and children, excessive stimulation at bedtime results in problems with insomnia and poor quality sleep." said Dr. Daniel Nepomuceno, a pulmonologist and sleep specialist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. "This research only adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that too much screen time in childhood is at least linked to, if not the cause of, poorer health, both physical and mental."

Researchers followed 1,800 kids from infancy to the time they were almost 8 years old. Parents were asked to report how much TV the kids watched when they were six months old, and then every year after. They also asked how much time the little ones spent in a room with a TV, and whether there was a TV in their bedrooms as they got older.

Overall findings included:

Average time children slept each day decreased from about 12 hours at six months to about 10 hours at seven years.

Total TV viewing increased from about one hour per day to 1.6 hours.

Proportion of children who slept with a TV in their bedroom increased from 17 percent to 23 percent between ages four and seven years.

"Inadequate sleep in childhood is known to cause problems including attention problems, school performance and an increased risk of obesity," said Dr. Nepomuceno. "Seven minutes each night doesn't seem like very much, but over time by the time you get to the end of the week children are already a half hour short on sleep. In some children, the presence of a TV in the bedroom was associated with over half an hour less sleep per night."