TV before bed delays children going to sleep. We’ve all heard that TV isn’t necessarily good for our children right before bed, but something about that fact tends to go against instinct. In my experience, most of us feel like television and video-streaming is relaxing to our minds. Bum news is, it’s the opposite. Viewing TV or video or screens prior to sleep tends to rev up our brains, disrupt our sleep, and may even cause nightmares (especially for preschoolers). The light from computers and screens may inhibit melatonin, the hormone that helps us drift off to sleep. A new study published this week reminds us about TV realities at bedtime.
I’m as guilty as everyone else. I love to let my children watch a TV show after dinner in the hour before bed. We all crave that downtime with our full bellies and the work of our day behind us. We all want some quiet. Here’s the thing:
Researchers surveyed over 2000 children between 5 and 24 years of age. They inquired about the last 1 1/2 hours of their day–not surprisingly they found that TV before bed was common. Across all ages, watching TV was the most common activity for children before bed, about half of the children watched TV for at least 30 minutes. When they surveyed what time children went to sleep, they confirmed the concerns about TV and bedtime. The children with more TV viewing went to sleep later. Conversely, those with an earlier bedtime had significantly greater time in non-screen sedentary activities and self-care prior to going to sleep. Most research shows that our children’s sleep deprivation is due to late bedtimes, not early rising. Children sleep about 1 hour less now than they did 100 years ago. Consequently, we’re also more fatigued, distracted, obese, and hyperactive these days–all things associated with sleep loss. Strategies that help us go to sleep on time are essential for our very tired country…
TV Tips To Improve Our Children’s Sleep:
- If your child is having trouble falling asleep, work hard to make sure they don’t spend any time in front of a screen 2 hours prior to bedtime. Explain to them why you’re doing this–the TV winds them up, not down.
- Get all screens out of the room where your children sleep. No TVs, cell phones, tablets, or iPods in bedrooms or in bed with children. Make rules for a sleeping station for phones in your kitchen. Phones go to bed at say, 9pm.
- Buy a new alarm clock if a child says that their phone must wake them up in the AM. I find alarm clocks online for less than $15.
- If your child loves TV, shift the time of day they watch television. Consider using all screens as devices of privilege. Let children earn an hour with their TV or video game while you prepare dinner for great citizenship at home and/or school.
Rebecca Michi - Children's Sleep Consultant says
Great advice Wendy.
It’s also a good idea to keep energy saving light bulbs out of the bedroom. They (like screens) also inhibit melatonin production.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
Huh– never knew! Thanks, Rebecca.
Kelly McDonald says
I appreciate the information as well as your honesty as a Mom, not MD, who is as guilty as the rest of us. Makes people much more willing to listen, learn and open to changing habits. Thanks!
The preschoolers get a hour or so of TV during the day such as when one is napping or I am cooking dinner. My school age child gets no screen time during the week unless its for homework on the computer. On the weekends all three kids get an average of about 5 hours the entire weekend. No one gets a TV in their room EVER! if you can’t agree on what to watch then mom picks and no one wins. The hour or so before bedtime at our house consists of playing together, baths, and reading individually to all three kids. There are also no electronics allowed in the kids rooms either. When we get to lax on these rules we see immediately the bad behavior start to creep in and the decreased ability to play and entertain oneself. Its not perfect and we certainly have lapses and exceptions from time to time but the rules are pretty firm and work really well for our kids.
Thanks for another interesting post!
What are your thoughts on stories on CD?
Our six year old listens to books on CD in his room at bedtime for 30 min – after we read to him and while he is having quiet time to play Legos, flip thru books, etc. Then it’s lights out, head on pillow, and time to sleep.
He’s listened to Ranona and Beezus, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Boxcar Children, Magic Treehouse books, etc – long books that last a few nights, and all from the library.
Wondering how hearing stories on CD (electronic device) fit in…and we just have one tv in the house and the kids get maybe five hours a week of tv…thanks!
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
I think books on CD are a great supplement to family reading. I do think you never want to fully replace sitting with, reading with, pointing out parts of books, and discussing books as you read with your children. But books on CD can be a great, relaxing way to travel and to travel in books while at home.
I know of no data that finds books on tape/CD cause any harm, etc. ENJOY them!!
Only thing I thought of when I read your comment was that you don’t always want music and books playing while children are playing imaginatively. Sometimes having to focus on just ONE thing at a time is a wonderful thing. Quiet rooms will always get filled with children’s singing/talking/play.
Thanks! Really helped! Great advice.
Thank you for your response about books on CD, and the reminder of having time for one thing at a time!
Shardae McAlister says
I have twins ( boy and a girl) and i try to put them to bed at a decent hour but all they will do is stay up and fight after i say lights out. Im admitting i have a TV in there room but soon getting that taken out as that just seems to do no justice. Any suggestions on how i can get them to stop fighting and to just go to bed at a decent hour?
bernadette van loenen says
have bevaviour mod charts, when no fighting say they put on blue dot sticker, when fighting they put on red sticker, when they have accumulated say 5 blue stickers they can go to the swimming pool (example) the fighting will diminish, you’ll see
NO TV in bedrooms please!!
have ‘art shop’ take out all your art supplies and paint/draw, craft time, build forts