Studies have consistently shown an association between media use and children’s sleep problems.
A new study, “The Impact of a Healthy Media Use Intervention on Sleep in Preschool Children,” in the September 2012 Pediatrics (published online Aug. 6), tested whether changing the type of videos and television shows watched by 3- to 5-year-old children improved their sleep.
In the randomized controlled trial involving 565 families in the Seattle area, half of the families received a home visit and several follow-up phone calls and mailings from a case manager, who tried to help the family find ways to replace violent and age-inappropriate media content with educational and pro-social media content. Parents were also encouraged to watch TV and videos alongside their children. The control group of families received nutrition-related mailings instead. Researchers then assessed children’s sleep, including how long it took for them to fall asleep, night wakings, nightmares, difficulty waking and daytime tiredness. Study authors found children who received the healthy media use intervention had significantly lower odds of sleep problems, and that this effect persisted across the intervention year, but faded six months after the program ended.
According to the study authors, the results of the trial suggest the relationship between media use and child sleep problems is indeed causal in nature, and that health care clinicians and parents should consider healthy media choices in the prevention or treatment of child sleep problems.