Watching non-violent television during day has young children with few sleep problems
A yearlong intervention program that encouraged parents of children ages three to five to remove the violence and replace it with educational and age-appropriate entertainment viewing was associated to a lower likelihood of children having “any sleep problem”, according to Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
View slideshow: Televison viewing for young children
Researchers had written "Observational studies have consistently shown an association between media use and child sleep problems.” However, most of the research had been conducted in a cross-sectional manner and has not been clear if television viewing had resulted in children’s sleep problems or if it was a result of the child’s sleep difficulties.
In order to find the answer Dr. Michelle Garrison, PhD, MPH. and Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis MD, MPH, had enrolled 565 families with children age’s three to five in the Seattle area for this study. At random half the families were assigned to media intervention healthy use or controlled nutritional program which focused on healthy eating that served as they comparison group.
Families kept sleep dairies received home visits, follow-up telephone calls and monthly mailings from the case manager which had included a program guide modified to the families’ available channels with recommended television shows and schedules along with a newsletter consisting of tips and reinforcement.
At the start of the study 42% of children in the intervention group and 39% in the comparison group had some type of sleep problem with the most common problem being children took too long to fall asleep several nights a week with 26% of the children needing more than twenty minutes to fall asleep two to four times a week and 12% taking that long to fall sleep five or more nights a week.
Other frequent sleep problems reported had included waking up more than once during the night, having trouble waking up in the morning and being tired during the day.
After six months, sleep problems were reduced down to 30% in the intervention group and down a few points in the control group to 36% less sleep problems.
Throughout the yearlong study significant benefits were seen however, at 18 months sleep problems had started to reappear.
According to the researchers "The potential decay at 18 months suggests that families may need supportive maintenance after the active intervention or that the intervention protocol may need to be revised to ensure that families are mastering the skills needed to continue making healthy media choices as their child continues to grow older and media options evolve.”
Researchers also stressed that the intervention only addressed what shows were being viewed and made no effort in limiting the amount of time viewing television.
Due to the findings being based on what the children were viewing, it is possible the parents underestimated how much time their child spent watching television and how much violence was watched according to researchers.
The study suggests that the benefits on sleep were associat4ed to program content and possibly through effects on anxiety, fears or hyperactivity.
Researchers note the study does suggest that limiting young children’ television viewing according to content can be a very useful strategy for avoiding sleep problems.
Dr. Dennis Rosen, pediatric pulmonologist and sleep specialist at Children's Hospital Boston stated about the findings to USA Today News findings "reinforce the notion that we need to be vigilant with the content we're exposing our children to.” "At this age, they are affected by what they watch."
This study is published online in Pediatrics.