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Want Your Toddler to Fall Asleep Easier? Change the Channel

August 17, 2012

New research shows that what your child watches on TV can make or break bedtime.

By Leah Rocketto for TheBump.com

A tired kid is a cranky kid, but getting your toddler or preschooler to go to bed on time can be a challenge (second only to getting them to eat veggies!). The solution? New research suggests it could be changing what your child is watching on TV.

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A recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that violent, or age-inappropriate, television shows can have a negative affect on children's sleep. (And "violent" doesn't mean your kid is watching Die Hard.) In the study, the Seattle Children's Research Institute evaluated the sleep and TV-viewing habits of 565 children ages 3 to 6. Half of the children replaced their regular TV shows with safer shows (such as Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer), while the rest viewed their normal programs (which included SpongeBob Square Pants and Scooby-Doo).

Prior to the experiment, parents completed questionnaires regarding their children's sleep habits. At the time, researchers saw no difference. Parents filled out these survey again at the 6, 12, and 18-month marks, reporting their children's night wakings, nightmares, trouble waking in the morning and daytime tiredness.

At the end of the study, researches found that those who viewed more educational programming were 64 percent less likely to have trouble falling asleep. Researches saw that the most common problem was difficult with sleep-onset latency, with children taking over 20 minutes to fall asleep. Children also experienced difficult staying asleep and occasional nightmares.

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Switching shows may offer more than bedtime benefits. Michelle Garrison, lead author of the study, says the safer shows also act as educational tools. Wondering what "safer shows" means? In the study, that meant a "rating of TV-Y, being rated high on educational and/or prosocial value by CommonSenseMedia.org, and being currently available on network or cable television… Representative recommended shows included Curious George, Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer."

"These shows can be beneficial for preschool children to watch, because they emphasize things such as literacy, numbers and social skills," Garrison told HealthDay. Garrison also adds that just because children can benefit from a show, parent should still "power down" about an hour before bedtime.

Do certain shows affect your child's sleep? What do you consider "too violent" for your little one?

© 2012 The Bump. All rights reserved.

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