What Cartoons Your Child Watches Can Affect How They Sleep

By Amir Khan on August 6, 2012 10:41 AM EDT

BABY TV
What cartoons your child watches can affect their sleep habits, according to a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics. Children who watched age-appropriate programming slept better than children who watched shows that were meant for older kids, researchers said. (Photo: Creative Commons: yoshimov)

What cartoons your child watches can affect their sleep habits, according to a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics. Children who watched age-appropriate programming slept better than children who watched shows that were meant for older kids, researchers said.

Researchers looked at 565 preschool-age children and found that those who watched education programming, such as Sesame Street, slept better than those who watched superheroes fighting or slapstick comedy shows.

"Content that's funny for older kids can be too violent for really young children," Michelle Garrison, study author and researcher with Seattle Children's Research Institute, told ABC News. "We really don't want them exposed to any violence at all."

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Previous studies have linked violent programming to sleeping issues in children, but researchers wanted to determine whether reducing exposure could improve sleep. They ran a clinical trial, showing children Curious George, Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street.

"That kind of media content really models good social skills, like empathy, cooperation and problem solving," Garrison told ABC News. "And we found that taking steps to reduce violent media produced tangible and sustained effects on sleep."

Researchers said it's clear that what programming children watch affects their sleep habits, though it's not clear how exactly it works.

"An 8-year-old can watch superheroes and understand that it's not what happens in real life," Garrison told HealthDay. "But the same content can be overwhelming and scary for a 3-year-old. The idea that people might just explode is scary for a 3-year-old."

Garrison said it's possible the shows cause nightmares, though she is not exactly sure. Either way, it's clear children should not be exposed to violent programming, she said.

"Trying to reduce media violence is an important goal for all families," she said. "And the good news is: There's lots of great, healthy content out there for preschool children, a lot of positive options."

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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