Nav: Home

Preschoolers who watch TV sleep less

May 14, 2019

Preschoolers who watch TV sleep significantly less than those who don't, according to new research by University of Massachusetts Amherst neuroscientist Rebecca Spencer and developmental science graduate student Abigail Helm.

More surprising to Spencer, known for her groundbreaking research into the role of naps in children's memory and learning, 36 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds had TVs in their bedroom, and a third of those kids fell asleep with the TV on, often watching stimulating or violent adult programming.

The study, published in Sleep Health, the journal of the National Sleep Foundation, suggests that TV use by young children affects the quality and duration of sleep, measured for the first time by an actigraphic device kids wore like a watch on their wrist. Moreover, while daytime napping was found to increase among the kids who watched the most TV, it did not fully compensate for the lost sleep at night.

"The good news is, this is addressable," says Spencer, referring to the opportunity to educate parents about the new, myth-shattering evidence that TV does not help young children fall asleep. "Parents assumed that TV was helping their kids wind down. But it didn't work. Those kids weren't getting good sleep, and it wasn't helping them fall asleep better. It's good to have this data."

The findings of Spencer and Helm come on the heels of new guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), which say children between age 2 and 4 years should have no more than one hour of "sedentary screen time" daily - and less or no screen time is even better. Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that daily screen time for 2- to 5-year-olds be limited to one hour of "high-quality programs," and that parents should watch the programs with their children. The WHO also emphasized the importance of young children getting "better quality" sleep for their long-term health.

Some 54 percent of kids in the UMass Amherst study are not meeting the WHO's TV-viewing guidelines on weekdays, and the figure jumps to 87 percent on weekends, Spencer says.

In addition to a dearth of data on TV viewing and sleep among this age group, previous research that does exist has relied on parent-reported measures of sleep, and "parents tend to overestimate sleep duration," according to the study. "One of the biggest advantages we have in our approach is the use of these actigraphs," which have been found to provide a reliable measure of sleep, Spencer says.

The new research piggybacked on Spencer's larger study about young children's sleep and cognition, supported by a National Institutes of Health grant. "Given that we already have some data about why sleep and naps are important for young kids, we decided to look into what are the factors that determine when they sleep, how they sleep and why they sleep," Spencer says.

A "very diverse" group of 470 preschoolers from Western Massachusetts participated in the study, wearing actigraphs for up to 16 days. Their parents and caregivers answered questionnaires about demographics and the children's health and behavior, including detailed questions on TV use. Among the findings:
  • Preschoolers who watch less than one hour of TV per day get 22 more minutes of sleep at night - or nearly 2.5 hours per week - than those who watch more than an hour of TV daily.

  • On average, young children without TVs in their bedrooms slept 30 minutes more at night than those with a TV in their bedroom.

  • Although kids with TVs in their bedroom slept on average 12 minutes longer during naps, they still slept 17 minutes less during a 24-hour period than kids without TVs in their bedroom.
Spencer says she plans to expand future child sleep studies to examine the impact of hand-held digital devices, such as iPads and smartphones. She also points out that TV use by kids as reported by their parents is likely to be underestimated.

"I think TV is its own beast to understand," she says.
-end-


University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Related Sleep Articles:

Baby sleeping in same room associated with less sleep, unsafe sleep habits
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents keep babies in the same room with them to sleep for the first year to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Alternating skimpy sleep with sleep marathons hurts attention, creativity in young adults
Skimping on sleep, followed by 'catch-up' days with long snoozes, is tied to worse cognition -- both in attention and creativity -- in young adults, in particular those tackling major projects, Baylor University researchers have found.
Sleep trackers can prompt sleep problems
A researcher and clinician in the sleep disorders program in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Rush University Medical Center and an associate professor at Rush University, Baron says use of these devices follows a pattern reflected in the title of the Sleep Medicine study: 'Orthosomnia: Are Some Patients Taking the Quantified Self Too Far?'
UW sleep research high-resolution images show how the brain resets during sleep
Striking electron microscope pictures from inside the brains of mice suggest what happens in our own brain every day: Our synapses -- the junctions between nerve cells -- grow strong and large during the stimulation of daytime, then shrink by nearly 20 percent while we sleep, creating room for more growth and learning the next day.
What is good quality sleep? National Sleep Foundation provides guidance
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recently released the key indicators of good sleep quality, as established by a panel of experts.
Homeless sleep less, more likely to have insomnia; sleep improvements needed
The homeless sleep less and are more likely to have insomnia and daytime fatigue than people in the general population, findings researchers believe suggest more attention needs to be paid to improving sleep for this vulnerable population, according to a research letter published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.
Losing sleep over discrimination? 'Everyday discrimination' may contribute to sleep problems
People who perceive more discrimination in daily life have higher rates of sleep problems, based on both subjective and objective measures, reports a study in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.
Mouse mutants with sleep defects may shed light on the mysteries of sleep
The first unbiased genetic screen for sleep defects in mice has yielded two interesting mutants, Sleepy, which sleeps excessively, and Dreamless, which lacks rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Brain circuit that drives sleep-wake states, sleep-preparation behavior is identified
Stanford University School of Medicine scientists have identified a brain circuit that's indispensable to the sleep-wake cycle.
Recharge with sleep: Pediatric sleep recommendations promoting optimal health
For the first time, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has released official consensus recommendations for the amount of sleep needed to promote optimal health in children and teenagers to avoid the health risks of insufficient sleep.

Related Sleep Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".