TV Time Before Bed Hampers Kids' Sleep: Study

01/16/2013 08:31 am ET

If your child's nighttime routine includes a big dose of TV before bed, a new study suggests it might be taking a toll on his or her sleep.

The research from the University of Auckland in New Zealand shows that the more screen time kids get before bed, the later they went to bed.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, included 2,016 children between ages 5 and 18. All the study participants reported what they did in the 90 minutes before sleeping. The researchers put their activities into three categories: self-care, nonscreen sedentary time, and screen sedentary time. The researchers also noted the study participants' "sleep onset" -- very early, early, late and very late.

Researchers found that TV time was the No. 1 most commonly reported pre-bedtime activity among all the study participants, with it taking up about 30 minutes of the 90 minutes before sleep.

They also found that kids who went to bed later had 13 minutes more screentime before sleep than their earlier-sleeping peers.

"The development of interventions to reduce screen-based behaviors in the presleep period may promote earlier sleep onset and ultimately improved sleep duration in young people," researchers wrote in the study.

Sleep experts generally discourage screentime right before bed. Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D., the director of The Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and Technology, told WebMD that a lot of it has to do with the light exuded from the screens.

"The light suppresses a hormone that is supposed to tell the brain it's time to sleep. And that hormone is melatonin," Rosenberg told WebMD. And "your sleep can be delayed because of the excitement of being involved with the computer [and other devices]."

Rosenberg chaired a 2011 task force from the National Sleep Foundation that examined bedtime behaviors, which found that 60 percent of people, on average, use technology before bed, WebMD reported.

Do you let your child watch TV before bed? Do you find that it affects their sleep? Let us know in the comments!

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