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TV time before bed may keep your kids awake longer

January 30, 2013

Walk me through your child’s nighttime rituals. What does it look like? Dinner, bath, then wind down with your child’s favorite movie or recorded TV show – sound about right? I would be willing to bet that many kids watch some form of TV before going to bed, as parents attempt to clean up from dinner, do laundry, or finally take a break from a busy day. What if I told you that TV time before bed actually makes your kids stay awake longer? That’s right. If you want your kids to fall asleep faster at bedtime, it may be a good idea to turn of the TV, and even the iPad and computer, at night. Here’s why.

The Study

A recent study published in the Journal Pediatrics took an inside look at the effects of TV time on a child’s sleep patterns. Researchers surveyed over 2,000 kids, ages 5 to 18, on their activities within 90 minutes of going to sleep. They found that watching TV was the most common reported activity, and took up at least 30 minutes of the child’s 90-minute pre-sleep activity log.

What does this mean?

Researchers found that there was a direct correlation between kids who watched TV and the amount of (prolonged) time in which they were able to fall asleep. When compared to kids who chose non-screen activities before bed, those who regularly watched TV leading up to bedtime had a harder time falling asleep. Based on this study, it is recommended that kids reduce the amount of TV time before bed to improve their overall sleep quality.

Alternatives to TV time at night

While the occasional movie night with the kids shouldn’t be banned (and is something that kids can look forward to), there are many other ways to help prepare them for bedtime. Here are some suggestions: 
  • Give your child a warm bath and cozy up to a good book (or two) in bed
  • Allow your kids to quietly play in their rooms, read alone, or listen to music
  • Have one-on-one time. Spend time with your child playing a game or working on a puzzle before bed.
  •  Share a story. Create a fairytale together or quietly sing songs to your little one before turning the lights out.
Whatever your child’s nighttime ritual is, try to avoid the habit of staring at a glaring TV screen before bed. Not only will this encourage your child to fall asleep faster, but it even allows for better quality time with your kids at night.

Share with us! Do you allow your kids to watch TV before bed? What do your kids’ bedtime rituals look like?