To investigate the relationship between specific television-viewing habits and both sleep habits and sleep disturbances in school children.
The parents of 495 children in grades kindergarten through fourth grade in three public elementary schools completed two retrospective survey questionnaires, one assessing their children's sleep behaviors and the other examining television-viewing habits of both the child and the family. Sleep domains assessed included bedtime resistance, sleep onset delay, sleep duration, anxiety around sleep, parasomnias, night wakings, and daytime sleepiness. Teachers from all three schools also completed daytime sleepiness questionnaires (N = 402) for the sample.
Most of the television-viewing practices examined in this study were associated with at least one type of sleep disturbance. Despite overall close monitoring of television-viewing habits, one quarter of the parents reported the presence of a television set in the child's bedroom. The television-viewing habits associated most significantly with sleep disturbance were increased daily television viewing amounts and increased television viewing at bedtime, especially in the context of having a television set in the child's bedroom. The sleep domains that appeared to be affected most consistently by television were bedtime resistance, sleep onset delay, and anxiety around sleep, followed by shortened sleep duration. The parent's threshold for defining “problem sleep behavior” in their child was also important in determining the significance of the association between sleep disturbance and television-viewing habits.
Health care practitioners should be aware of the potential negative impact of television viewing at bedtime. Parents should be questioned about their children's television-viewing habits as part of general screening for sleep disturbances and as part of anticipatory guidance in regards to healthy sleep habits in children. In particular, the presence of a television set in the child's bedroom may be a relatively underrecognized, but important, contributor to sleep problems in school children.