Like the proverbial elephant in the room, many parents tend to ignore the importance of reports linking television viewing to children’s sleep problems. Television has become such a constant component of American life that its ever-present drone has faded into the background noise of everyday life. In many homes the television is always on, its continuous soundtrack providing companionship and relief from the monotony of daily chores.
Adults are so used to television’s comforting background rhythm that they tend to tune it out for long periods of time. But children find television mesmerizing and will spend hours entranced by its flashing images and undulating soundtrack. Parents seldom realize how much time their children actually spend glued to the tube.
While television seems harmless, it can interfere with children’s sleep and have a negative impact on their health, particularly when young children are allowed to watch TV right before bedtime. Television watching is part of the normal bedtime routine in many homes during the summer months when school-aged children are on vacation. Being allowed to stay up a little later to watch a popular sitcom is a traditional vacation treat in many families, and preschoolers are often allowed to watch along with older siblings to keep the family peace. Unfortunately, television watching is a vacation treat that can turn a pleasant evening into bedtime nightmares.
Next time: The effect bedtime TV has on children’s sleep