Many parents of pre-schoolers report that their children have some sleep problems, whether it is delaying going to bed, having a hard time falling asleep, or awakening during the night with nightmares and bad dreams. All of these behaviors lead to sleeplessness for both child and parent.
A recent study from the Seattle Children's Research Institute published in Pediatrics looked at 565 children between the ages of 3-5 years. The parents of these children were asked to replace violent or age inappropriate media content with quality educational and pro-social content. In other words, less super heroes and more Sesame Street and Dora. (I still long for the serenity of Mr. Rogers). The researchers then monitored these 565 children's sleep patterns for 18 months.
The study found that the children in the group advised about healthy media were 29% less likely to have sleep problems than the children in the control group.
Once again there is data to support what one would intuitively assume, children who watch violent and age inappropriate TV and videos have more problems with sleep. I have known that since I watched The Wizard of Oz as a child, I dreamed about those flying monkeys for at least the next 10 years. Still don't like them! That goes for The Birds' too, another scary movie for sure!
With easy access to so many cable channels and constant internet options, parents need to be extra vigilant about what their pre-schoolers are exposed too. When parents were coached on making healthy media choices for their child in this randomized trial, there was a sustained reduction in sleep problems, so it lasted!
I think a trip to the library and books at bedtime are also a great idea and better than watching TV or videos. Curious George, Dr. Seuss, and Richard Scary books all seem to stand the test of time and will probably not keep your pre-schooler up at night. More sleep for Mom, Dad and child!
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