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Study ties TV to children’s sleep problems

Later, violent shows linked to preschoolers’ troubles

CHICAGO – If your preschooler can’t sleep, turn off the violence and nighttime TV.

That’s the message in a new study that found sleep problems are more common in 3- to 5-year-olds who watch television after 7 p.m. Watching shows with violence – including kids’ cartoons – also was tied to sleeping difficulties.

Watching nonviolent shows during the day didn’t seem to have any connection with sleep problems in the 617 youngsters studied.

The study builds on previous research linking media use with kids’ sleep problems, and also bolsters arguments for limiting children’s screen time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children up to age 2, and no more than two hours daily for older children. It also urges pediatricians to ask parents at every checkup how much their children watch television, including whether kids have TVs in their bedrooms, which the academy discourages.

Previous studies have found that at least one in four U.S. preschoolers have TVs in their bedrooms, and many families mistakenly believe that watching TV will help their kids sleep, said Dr. Michelle Garrison, lead author and a scientist at Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

The government-funded study was to be released online today by the journal Pediatrics.

Overall, nearly one in five kids studied had one or more frequent sleep problems most days of the week. These included difficulty falling asleep, awakening repeatedly at night, nightmares or daytime sleepiness.

Lack of sleep can cause behavior difficulties, memory problems and academic struggles, said Dr. Marc Weissbluth, a sleep disorders specialist at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital.


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