Why Too Much Television Time Might Be Why Your Child Isn’t Sleeping

Posted by Tyler Britton on Jun 22, 2021 1:39:00 PM

Why too much television time might be why your child isnt sleeping - Anchorage Sleep Center

Signs Your Child Isn’t Sleeping Enough

When your child isn’t sleeping enough, they will likely show signs. This is exactly what happens during "the witching hour", which refers to that time in the evening when our children get tired and start to be defiant, hyperactive, and/or crabby.

When children aren’t getting enough sleep, you may see more witching hour in your child than not. Signs your child isn’t sleeping enough are:

  • Behavior that is consistent with ADHD signs
    • Hyperactivity
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Defiant behavior
    • Impulsive behavior
  • Excessive sleep on weekends
  • Falling asleep during the day, such as at school
  • Poor or erratic performance at school
  • Hard time waking up in the morning

In fact, there is an increasing body of evidence from studies that children with chronic sleep problems can be misdiagnosed with ADHD (Shur-Fen Gau 2006). Another important thing is to try and establish a baseline of behavior and performance for your child: what is normal and what is uncharacteristic.

If your child’s behavior/performance is erratic from day to day, or if they are uncharacteristically defiant/crabby/sleepy, look at their sleep schedule.

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

Children need significantly more sleep than adults. As children get younger, they need more sleep. Below is a guideline for how sleep children need [Sleep Foundation]. Note that there is a recommended number, but all children are different and may have different sleep needs that fall outside the recommended number so a minimum and maximum amount are listed as well:

  • Newborns 0-4 months
    • Recommended 14-17 hours per day
    • Not less than 11 hours
    • Not more than 19 hours
  • Infants 4-12 months
    • Recommended 12-15 hours
    • Not less than 10 hours
    • Not more than 18 hours
  • Toddlers 1-3 years
    • Recommended 11-14 hours
    • Not less than 9 hours
    • Not more than 16 hours
  • Preschoolers 3-5 years
    • Recommended 10-12 hours
    • Not less than 8 hours
    • Not more than 14 hours
  • Adolescents 6-13
    • Recommended 9-11 hours
    • Not less than 7 hours
    • Not more than 12 hours
  • Teenagers 13-18 years
    • Recommended 8-10 hours
    • Not less than 7 hours
    • Not more than 11 hours

What’s important is to try and establish what amount of sleep allows your child to perform best.

How Screens Impact Sleep in Children

A recent study on sleep and screens conclusively showed that children who watched more TV and had TV in their bedrooms “displayed significantly shorter sleep duration and worse sleep”, and were inclined to nap longer. Importantly, the study showed that the extra napping did not offset these negative impacts.

The study looked at 470 children between 33 and 71 months over the course of 16 days, measuring their sleep with actigraphy watches. Caregivers reported on children’s TV use. Important findings are:

  • Nighttime sleeping was significantly less for children who watched more TV and had TV in bedrooms
  • Children who watched more TV/had a TV in their bedroom napped longer
  • Total 24 sleep was still less for children who watched more TV/had TV in their bedroom
  • Extra napping doesn’t offset sleep deprivation
  • More TV impacts sleep duration and quality negatively

If you are concerned that your child isn’t getting enough sleep, then look at their screen time.

Easy Ways to Manage Screen Time for Children

Analyzing your child’s screen time means answering questions like:

  • Is your child watching TV/Ipad/computer at night?
  • How much screen time does your child get every day?
  • Is there a screen freely available in your child’s room?

Some tips to limit screen time are:

  • Remove screens from child’s bedrooms
  • Restrict access (no free access) to screens
  • Limit screen time to a minimum throughout the day
  • Use analytic apps that monitor how much use an Ipad, computer, or phone is being used by your children

Other Reasons for Sleep Deprivation Besides Screens

There are other things, such as sleep disorders, that can cause sleep deprivation in children such as:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Circadian rhythm disorders
  • Night terrors

If you live in Alaska and your child seems to be suffering from sleep deprivation and is not getting much screen time, please access this free online sleep test to get in touch with us.

Take a Free Online Sleep Test


Shur-Fen Gau S. 2006. Prevalence of sleep problems and their association with inattention / hyperactivity among children aged 6-15 in Taiwan. Journal of Sleep Research 5(4): 403-414

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