Sleep! We have wondered across ages of human existence why it is so important from when we are helpless babies to now, as parents with responsibilities of nurturing a healthy lifestyle. As individuals, we are well aware of the effects of getting too little sleep or none at all; we may feel awkward, indisposed and our productivity can be greatly affected.
Getting a child the appropriate amount of sleep and of good quality in an age with a lot of screen gadgets; including TV, smartphones, and computers has become an important task. These gadgets make life more fun and entertaining as well as having become a prominent learning platform. Inexhaustible TV programs and video-games are now an essential part of time-consuming activities for children. And while some believe that social media keeps us from experiencing the “real world” there is something to be said for being able to be a part of and share in so many other people’s lives.
However, with everything fun and good, there is always a price when there is no guidance and moderation. Desire for more screen time and even a dependence can develop.
WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT?
Sleep is important for proper growth and development in children and adults. We cannot function properly without adequate sleep, thus sleep has become a very important branch of medicine known as sleep therapy or sleep medicine.
Getting appropriate sleep time and quality helps improve brain development and overall cognitive function in children. It also helps in energy distribution and metabolism, which is essential for growth. Sleep has also been shown to help reduce stress and boost the immune system and ameliorate stress-associated disorders.
Racheal Dawkins of John Hopkins hospital in her news article for the hospital put the daily recommended sleep hours as follows:
Infants under One year: 12-16 hours
Children 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours
Children 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours
Children 6-12 years old: 9-12 hours
Teenagers 13-18 years old: 8-10 hours (https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/The-importance-of-sleep-for-kids).
Therefore, it is of utmost importance for parents to ensure their children are getting appropriate sleep duration and quality for optimum growth and development. As this will also foster healthy living in children as they grow into adulthood and become independent.
TELEVISION ADDICTION REALITY
Yes, there are so many addictions and addictive things parents may have encountered and heard of before their coming of age and becoming a parent. However, the least discuss or to gain attention is television addiction, or we can call it dependence.
Television viewing is the most popular form of leisure activity in the United States consuming an average of 2.8 hours per day in the general population according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012.
One of the earliest report demonstrating concerns about time spent by children in front of the television; was a 1962 study by Robert D. Hess and Harriet Goldman in the journal of Child Development (https://www.jstor.org/stable/1126454), stated that children below the age of 12 spend on average 22 hours per week watching television. And now with the advent of more programs and smart devices such Phones and Tablets, there is an increase in the numbers of hours spent on screen especially when there are no school activities or when the school is on break.
The article also showed while there was no concern or link over health issues, parents were wary of their children spending so much time on the television-related activities.
In also in a 1996 edited work of Robert Kubey by Tannis M.Williams ((http://www.swlauriersb.qc.ca/schools/recit/tlaptop/mliteracy/depend.pdf)) explored how Television dependence habit is formed from individuals needs to fill up open time or as a means of distraction. Eventually, leading to the development of passive attitude towards other choices of activities unless such individual return to the screen. While the work of Harriet and Goldman stated 22 hours per week as dependence, Robert Kubey reported the time spent on the screen to have increased to 60 hours per week.
With all stated above, it is also important to know when an individual use of television may be constituted as dependence, which was the basis of a 2010 investigation was carried out by Cary W. Horvath (http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15506878jobem4803_3) as a result of complexities in determining what constitute Normal or Dependent television attitude. This report was able to provide an empirical approach in validating television addiction scale, which can serve as a guide for parents in observing when the use of television and associated contents will be regarded as addiction and in planning their guidance in the usage of screen devices in their respective homes.
TV ADDICTION AND SLEEP DISTURBANCE
We have been talking about how essential sleep is for children and everyone to function properly, at this point we will be reviewing the association between media use and sleep disturbance amongst children as supported by different scientific reports.
In a research brief prepared by Frederick J. Zimmerman for the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2008 (https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED527857.pdf), reported three different studies highlighting decline sleep time and sleep quality among children aged 1-5 years within 25 years from an average of 13.5 hours to 8.7 hours per night as a result of increased media use involving Television among others outside parental control.
The author also reported that 20-30% of American children are suffering from one type of sleep problem or the other; however this percentage reduced to 18% with the advancement in age and entrance into elementary school. This provides relief for parents as increased engagement of the children with school activities and association with friends outside the children’s respective homes reduced screen time.
Baumgartner T, et al., in 2006 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16497116) associated increase television use among children with an increased level of arousal and stress hormone like cortisol, which inadvertently affects the quality of sleep and sleeps time. Higuchi et al., in 2003 (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2005.00463.x), also showed the relationship between television use and suppression of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and biology that determines the onset of sleep.
Van den Bulck J in 2004 (http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2004-11640-005) amongst several other researchers have associated television viewing with nightmares that lasted more than two weeks in children across different age group which depreciates sleep quality in children affected. However, both studies made us realize that television content also matters as some content can promote sleep; some can displace sleep.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance for the parents to look into the content their children are viewing.
SLEEP DISTURBANCE AND CHILDHOOD OBESITY
Having established a relationship between television use amongst children and sleep disturbance with the fact that children can form a television and screen dependence habit, it is important for parents to know how this habit can influence weight management as they strive to ensure and instill a healthy lifestyle in their children. Therefore, we will be looking into if there is an association between sleep and childhood obesity.
Miriam E Bar-on in her year 2000 (https://adc.bmj.com/content/83/4/289.short) published review stated that television viewing affects both fatness and fitness. She also showed multiple studies have also implicated television as one of the leading cause of childhood obesity citing reduced energy expenditure as children hooked on the television tend to eat more and exercise less.
Results from a project supported by the Lucie and Andre´ Chagnon Foundation and the Government of the Province of Quebec in 2006 (https://www.nature.com/articles/0803291) showed a negative association between long hours of TV watching, playing video-games or computer utilisation and childhood obesity. That is the longer the time children spend watching television, playing video games and using a computer the higher the tendency of childhood obesity.
Apart from the studies stated above, there are several studies implicating television dependence habit formed by children in sleep disturbance involving reduced sleep quality and duration and associated childhood obesity.
However, the solution proffered by most of these studies involves;
- Parental control of television content and access
- Parents should also form healthy television viewing time as children learn from what the parent does than what they are told to do
- The parent should reduce or remove the presence of television in their child/children’s room
- Parents should ensure there is an increase in physical activity for their children, especially during school break/holiday.
- Parents should also ensure their children go to bed early as this is the utmost goal in a bid to combat sleep-associated childhood obesity.
With a lot of insurmountable scientific reports showing positive correlation between inactivity, sleep disturbance and childhood weight management, it is now essential for parents to draw the line between the times spent by their children with screen gadgets and their bedtime and with the parents themselves leading with good examples.