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TV causes "chronic sleep debt" - research


The link between watching television and poor quality sleep has been highlighted again, this time by a major US research programme. The study at the University of Pennsylvania involved 21,475 participants between 2003 and 2006, and concerned the activities carried out in the two hours before bedtime. It was found that watching television was the predominant activity before going to bed, for around 50% of the participants.

Furthermore, TV appeared to dictate the time that many respondents chose to go to bed, taking priority over natural "cues" such as tiredness or the expected demands of the following day.

"Given the relationship of short sleep duration to health risks, there is concern that many Americans are chronically under-sleeping due to lifestyle choices," said report co-author David Dinges, at the SLEEP 2009 event, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

TV's infringement into the recommended seven to eight hour sleeping period can result in "sleep debt", the hypothetical cumulative effect of poor sleep quality.

"Watching less television in the evening and postponing work start time in the morning appear to be the candidate behavioural changes for achieving additional sleep and reducing chronic sleep debt," added co-author Mathias Basner. "While the timing of work may not be flexible, giving up some TV viewing in the evening should be possible to promote adequate sleep."

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