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Articles by Dr. Walt Larimore

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Dr. Walt Larimore

Walt Larimore, M.D. has been called “one of America’s best known family physicians.” He is a nationally-known and nationally sought after speaker and health expert. read bio

The One Thing Your Kids Need to Avoid for A Good Night’s Sleep

Researchers are reporting that violent content on the TV or computer during the day disrupts sleep for preschool children. And it’s worse for any TV or computer time in the evening regardless of content, according to Michelle Garrison, PhD, and colleagues at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute in Seattle.

Here are the details in a report from MedPage Today:

“The bottom line is that we see violent media use [in the daytime] and any screen time at all in the evening is associated with a negative impact on sleep in (3, 4 and 5 year olds),” Garrison told MedPage Today and ABC News.

It’s not news, she said, that using a computer or watching TV affects sleep in preschoolers, sometimes making it hard for them to fall asleep or wake up in the morning and even causing nightmares.

But Garrison said this study is the first to look at the impact of different types of content, rather than just screen time itself. It’s the first step in a randomized trial that aims to see what effect changing types of media content has on sleep in preschoolers.

Researchers found:

  • Each additional hour of evening media use – regardless of content — was associated with an increase in the sleep problem score.
  • Each additional hour of daytime use with violent content was associated with a higher increase in the sleep problem score.

For the most part, Garrison said, children were not watching super-gory adult fare or playing shoot-’em-up computer games. Instead they were seeing cartoons and other material aimed at slightly older children.

But parents should be aware that even content that seems innocuous could be a problem, she said.

“When we stopped and looked at types of violence – slapstick funny violence in Bugs Bunny or superhero violence in Batman or more realistic violence – we didn’t see a difference in terms of the impact on sleep,” Garrison said.

But even small amounts of age-inappropriate TV may have an impact on preschool children because their “cognitive ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy is not developed,” according to Jeannine Gingras, MD, a pediatric sleep expert in Charlotte, N.C.

It also has to do with what the child perceives to be frightening, even if it’s not violent, she told MedPage Today/ABC News. Clowns, for instance, can give many children nightmares, or kids’ movies that seem benign to adults can be disturbing to children.

“I had one [5-year-old] child who had horrible sleep difficulties from [watching] ‘Monsters, Inc.’ which I thought was cute,” she said.

Ameenuddin said she recommends that parents “go dark” to help their kids sleep — “remove TVs from children’s bedrooms, limit or eliminate media use before bedtime, and create a bedtime routine that is free of electronic stimulation to gently transition the child into sleep.”

Used with permission from Dr. Walt, taken from Dr. Walt’s blog.

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