For many years people have been worried about the impacts of TV on young children, with many areas of concern from intellectual development impairment to socialisation issues. One area that has not been covered in much detail before but could actually be of serious concern is the connection between TV watching and sleep. It turns out that watching the TV might have a negative impact on the length of your sleep.
A new study by a group of Spanish scientists has found that the more TV children watched each day the less sleep they were getting at night. The study looked at the TV watching habits and sleep health of some 1700 children over a three year period and the results were quite conclusive, those who watched more television got less sleep.
For example, they found that the average nine year old who was watching around five hours of TV each day was sleeping about an hour less each night than a nine year old who was only watching around an hour to an hour and a half of television a day. As many other studies have shown, missing out on an hour a night of sleep can have a range of developmental impacts on children and can lead to a number of problems later in life.
The TV viewing times at the start of the study went from zero to a maximum of eight hours a day, with the median time only at one hour. The sleep times varied from three to 20 hours a day at the beginning, though the median was about 12 hours for the two-year-olds, 10 hours for the four-year-olds and 11 hours for the six-year olds.
The median sleep times fell by around two hours over the two-to-three year follow-up period for all age groups though the children who increased their TV watching over the three year study lost far more sleep time than the others – with an average great loss of 20 percent.
The lead author Marcella Marinelli, from the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, believes that this is the first study to look at the relationship between the amount of time toddlers and school-age children spend watching television and the amount they spend sleeping over a number of years.
What is scary is that the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that the average child spends around eight hours a day watching TV, three more than the average of those in the study who were sleeping an hour less. The AAP recommends that children only watch one to two hours a day max.
These study findings should be a wake up call to all parents. The less TV your children watch the better. Sleep is critical to development and if your children are missing an hour a night this can have a huge number of negative impacts over their entire lives.
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