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Science Finds Yet Another Reason to Reduce How Much TV Your Kids Watch

Have overactive kids? Can’t get them to sleep? Consider cutting their hours watching TV or even taking the TV out of their room — you may finally catch a break while they catch some Zs.

A study released by MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Harvard School of Public Health shows a link between increased TV viewing and shorter sleep duration in children. They followed 1,800 kids from the time they were six months old to almost eight years old and the study joins the body of literature that ties television not only to poor sleep, but also to poor mental and physical health in both kids and adults.

Though the effect wasn’t huge, the study did find that children slept an average of seven minutes less per night per each extra hour of TV watched. The link was even stronger in boys than in girls, and in minority children especially — they were found to get half an hour less sleep when they had a television in their room, as opposed to children without TVs in their bedroom.

It seems that watching television, especially closer to sleep time, can interrupt the sleep cycle by resetting your internal clock, causing your body to believe it’s actually time to be awake instead of asleep. The problem is caused mainly by bright screens that shine lights directly into your eyes, so something like a lamp that illuminates a book you’re reading before bed won’t have the same effect. The studies on the subject all seem to point towards the same findings — staring at screens right before bedtime are a big reason behind your sleep problems. And less sleep is linked to depression, obesity, and a multitude of other issues. So much so, that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends limiting screen time for kids to one-two hours a day.

If there’s anything to be taken away from this, it’s that we could all probably benefit from taking a break from our electronics (and encouraging our kids to do the same). Take a walk in the park or crack open a book — your body’ll thank you for it.

[Pic via Flickr - Lars Plougmann]

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