By Dr. Paul Ehrlich
According to a study in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics, by Michelle M. Garrison, a research scientist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, as reported by HealthDay:
“About 21 percent of pre-school children deal with at least two sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep, nightmares, repeated night waking or daytime tiredness, according to the study authors. Prior research indicates that between 20 percent and 43 percent of American preschoolers also have televisions in their bedroom…. Kids with a bedroom TV — who logged an additional 40 minutes of screen time each day — were eight times more likely to have parent-reported daytime tiredness.”
The study also correlates use of computers and computer games with sleep disruptions.
As allergists, both Larry and I have been concerned about the sleep disruption caused by asthma and allergies, which correlates with diminished academic performance and other measures of children’s quality of life. The quality of sleep is an important indicator of whether asthma and allergies are controlled. An AAFA-affiliated website I helped create years ago boiled it down to these three questions:
Do you sleep tight?
Do you work right?
Do you play with might?
As pediatricians, we are also concerned with the quality of sleep whatever the reason for the disruption. Thus, I feel compelled to speak up about the findings in Pediatrics. A kid who sneezes and wheezes at night is disadvantaged compared to his peers. Playing catch-up with electronic media doesn’t raise the bridge, it lowers the river. And kids with asthma and allergies who also watch TV or use computers too close to bedtime are victims of double jeopardy.
One element of this study should allow the Supreme Court to sleep better at night in the wake of the recent decision to allow sale of violent video games to children: violent content in the evening doesn’t make matters worse (although paradoxically, violent content during the day is also a problem). At night, age-appropriate content is just as disruptive as more “adult” fare.