If your child is having trouble sleeping, television could be the culprit

Five and six-year-olds who watch television, especially police dramas, news broadcasts and movies directed at adults, have a markedly increased risk for sleep problems, a new Finnish study suggests. The families of 297 children completed questionnaires on sleep routines and TV viewing habits that included details about the time spent watching, the types of shows they saw and whether the parents and the children watched together. The researchers estimated the time spent ``passive viewing'' - when the television was on, but the child was not actively paying attention - from the data they gathered. On average, the television was on 2.8 hours a day during the children's waking hours, and they watched it actively for 1.4 hours. The total amount of time the television was on, the amount of active TV watching and exposure to passive TV were all correlated with decreased sleep duration. The more that children watched programmes intended for adults and the more passive TV exposure they had, the more severe their sleep problems. Watching TV at bedtime or watching alone was also significantly correlated with the severity of sleep disturbances. Children who spent the most time in passive viewing had almost triple the risk of sleep difficulties of those who spent the least. Dr. Juulia Paavonen, the study's lead author, said television watching should be limited to one or two hours a day. ``Our results suggest,'' she said, ``that parents should control the programme contents that are actively watched by their children, and that children's exposure to background TV should be limited.'' (NYT)