Age-appropriate TV, movies can help kids sleep
Changing the type of DVDs, videos and TV shows that preschoolers watch during the day may help them sleep better at night.
A program that encouraged parents of kids ages 3 to 5 to replace age-inappropriate media content with more suitable programming found "long-lasting, significant reductions in sleep problems," says Michelle Garrison of Seattle Children's Research Institute, lead author of the study in today's Pediatrics.
Researchers made no attempt to change the amount of TV viewed or the time of day it was watched. "We felt that just by changing the content, we could have an impact on the health and development of these kids," she says. "That was borne out in results."
Preschoolers with sleep problems improved in both sleep and daytime tiredness over the course of the 12-month study, she says, and children who didn't initially have sleep problems were less likely to develop them.
Insufficient and disrupted sleep has been associated with obesity, behavior problems and poor school performance, researchers say.
For preschoolers, inappropriate content has less to do with violent or R-rated movies and more to do with cartoons "aimed at slightly older children," such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Scooby-Doo, Garrison says. "These are fun shows I would totally sit down and watch with an 8- or 9-year-old, but for a 3- or 4-year-old, it's too much and too overwhelming."
Age-appropriate fare cited includes Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer and Curious George.
Previous studies have found an association between increased media use and sleep disturbances in young kids.
Findings "reinforce the notion that we need to be vigilant with the content we're exposing our children to," says Dennis Rosen, associate medical director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children's Hospital. "At this age, they are affected by what they watch."
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