Small Screens and TVs Linked to Poor Sleep and Obesity in Children

Small Screens and TVs Linked to Poor Sleep and Obesity in Children

child sleepingAccording to a recent study, having screens or TVs in the bedroom is associated with less sleep duration and quality, and with perceived insufficient rest or sleep. The study, entitled, “Sleep Duration, Restfulness, and Screens in the Sleep Environment”, was recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

Evidence shows inadequate sleep is a risk factor for obesity and other clinical complications in childhood and later in life. In this regard, improving sleep duration and quality may improve somatic and psychosocial health, school performance, and risk-taking behavior among youth, and reduce hypertension, coronary heart disease, and stroke in adulthood. Sleep restriction is related to today’s modern lifestyle, especially with the overuse of new technology.

Elsie M. Taveras, MD, MPH, from the Division of General Academic Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston and colleagues, examined the effect of the presence of small screens and TVs in children’s sleep environments and reported screen time on children’s sleep duration, perceived insufficient rest or sleep, and usual bedtimes and waketimes.

A total of 2,048 fourth- and seventh-graders were enrolled in the study. These children were participating in the Massachusetts Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Study. Results revealed that those children who sleep with small screens in their rest place sleep 20.6 minutes less, and had a higher prevalence of perceived insufficient rest or sleep than those who do not have devices in the rest place. Furthermore, when comparing children who sleep in a room with a TV vs. those without, the former would sleep 18.0 minutes less. Wathcing DVDs, TV, playing computer games were found in this study to be associated with less sleep duration and less perceived rest.

The team of researchers concluded that children who sleep near a small screen, with a TV in the room, and spent more time on these devices experienced shorter sleep durations. Having a small screen in the bedroom, but not a TV, along with prolonged screen watching time was associated with less perceived rest or sleep. Based on the results drawn from this study, parents should be cautioned against unrestricted screen access in children’s bedrooms, in order to prevent sleep deprivation and other clinical complications later on in life, such as obesity.

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