Sleep is essential for an individual’s health and well-being. Children need more sleep to develop properly, more than any other age group. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, preschool-aged children and school-aged children are recommended to get at least 10 to 12 hours of sleep each day. Sleep deprivation in children has been linked to worse performance in school, depression, injury, and obesity.
A new study from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and Harvard School of Public Health found a link between children who have TVs in their bedrooms and shorter sleep time. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers monitored 1,864 children from six months to the time they were eight years old, who were enrolled in the long-term project called Project Viva. In Project Viva, investigators review multiple factors linked to children’s health, starting before birth.
The children’s mothers answered questions on their children every year from the time they were six months to seven years. The mothers answered how much time the children spent in a room with a TV, and whether there was a TV in their bedrooms as they got older. The researchers were interested in the amount of sleep the kids received each night.
Although the effect was not massive, the researchers found a consistent link between longer TV time and shorter sleep time. For every additional hour of TV viewing took place, the children were associated with 7 fewer minutes of daily sleep time.
"This doesn't seem like very much, but if you think about it, seven minutes every night by the time you get to the end of the week you're already a half hour short on sleep," Dr. Heidi Connolly, from the University of Rochester Medicine's Golisano Children's Hospital in New York, said.
The association was stronger for boys than for girls. Results also showed that ethnic and racial minority children were also more likely to sleep in a room with a TV.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children younger than two years old to not watch any television. Older children's TV time should be limited to no more than one or two hours per day.
“I think it's unreasonable to expect that kids aren't going to watch TV," Connolly told Reuters Health. “It's pervasive in our culture. But you do want to limit screen time to less than two hours per day.”
Connolly recommends consistent bedtimes, regular bedtime routines and a television-free comfortable sleeping environment for better sleep.