Evening TV and Violent Cartoons Hinder Sleep in Preschoolers

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Media Use and Sleep -- A Bad Combo

Garrison's study adds to a growing body of research that suggests that screen time and bedtime simply don't mix.

"Over the past decade, the evidence linking screen time to sleep problems has become stronger. Asking about media use has become a critical part of my patient care, particularly when children present with behavioral, academic or weight-related problems, all of which have also been linked to sleep problems and screen time," says Dr. Nusheen Ameenuddin, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic and executive committee member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and the Media.

"Unfortunately, in our current social climate with stressors and demands on families ... electronic devices are being used as a means of soothing the masses," said Mayo Clinic sleep specialist Dr. Robin Lloyd. These electronic activities, whether the computer, TV, cell phone or video game, tend to be stimulating and disrupt the production of natural hormones that help us sleep, she said.

Ameenuddin recommends that parents "go dark" to help their kids sleep -- "remove TVs from children's bedrooms, limit or eliminate media use before bedtime and create a bedtime routine that is free of electronic stimulation to gently transition the child into sleep," she said.

Garrison hopes her research will offer more specific ways to remedy childhood sleep problems that are easier for parents to follow.

"If you tell families all media use is bad, that ends up being a really difficult thing to make happen -- they often think it's not worth trying," she said.

By suggesting parents restrict their kids to appropriate content during the day and forbidding use in the evening, instead of just condemning media use altogether, she believes that pediatricians can offer parents an approach that is "actually pretty doable for most families."

The study will be published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

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