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These 3 TV Habits Could Help Your Child Sleep Longer

Children watching TV

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and the Harvard School of Public Health have found that the more time infants and young children spend watching TV, the less time they spend sleeping.

Elsie M. Taveras, associate professor of Population Medicine, and of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard, and her team followed over 1,800 children between ages 6 months to nearly 8 years old, and who were enrolled with their mothers in Project Viva, a long-term investigation of the health effects of several factors during pregnancy and after birth.

The team found that having a TV in the bedroom was also linked to reduced sleep time, especially among minority children, who were more likely to sleep in a room where a TV was present.

The researchers also found that each hour increase in TV viewing led to seven fewer minutes of sleep, with the effects of excessive TV watching appearing to be stronger in boys than in girls.

Among minority children, having a TV in the bedroom was associated with 31 fewer minutes of sleep, versus eight fewer minutes of sleep for white, non-Hispanic children.

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Setting TV viewing limits

To help your child sleep longer, set a limit for how long they can watch television. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 get no screen time, and that children older than 2 watch no more than one to two hours of quality programming a day. Once the allotted time is reached for the day, the TV should remain off.

Ban TV viewing during the week

Another approach is to ban TV viewing entirely during the week, saving it for the weekends. Instead, encourage non-TV entertainment such as books, toys, or puzzles.

Take the TV out of the bedroom

If you give your child a TV viewing limit, but leave a TV in their bedroom, chances are they will watch it when they should be sleeping. Previous studies have also linked televisions in the bedroom to excess weight gain, so removing the TV may not only increase your child’s sleep duration, but help them keep the pounds off as well.

[Photo credit: "Awaiting Doomsday" by Alan / Flickr]