Change Childhood Media Exposure for Better Sleep

Changing the type of  video and TV programs your preschooler watches and the use of video game systems may help them sleep better at night.

According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, healthy media use – including exposure to nonviolent and appropriate media content – improved the quality of sleep of children ages 3 to 5 over a 12-month period.

The findings were based on almost 600 families of preschoolers and conducted by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Families were encouraged not only to replace TV and video programming, but also to view TV with their children as much as possible and discuss the content with their children to help them process and learn from what was being seen. Families also received a TV program guide tailored with their available channels and recommended programming. Shows like Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer and Curious George were recommended for preschoolers, while shows like SpongeBob SquarePants, Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes, aimed at a slightly older demographic, were recommended to be postponed until ages 8 or 9.

Preschoolers with sleep problems improved in both sleep and daytime tiredness over the course of the 12 months, said the study’s authors, and children who didn’t initially have sleep problems were less likely to develop them.

“The researchers were likely looking to find changes in behavior or hyperactivity, but instead found these major sleep benefits,” said Barry Cohen, MD, Director of Pediatric Pulmonology at Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper. “Electronics with video displays such as game-boxes and DVDs have been depriving children and adolescents of their sleep for years now, and also contribute to obesity and other health problems. Age-appropriate media content, monitored by parents and caregivers, are extra steps that are absolutely worth taking in order to get your child’s sleep patterns on the right track for long-term health.”

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