Friday, May 9, 2014

Must-not-see TV: Violent content leads to sleep problems for kids

Any parent with a child old enough to speak has no doubt endured many sleepless nights as the result of bad dreams. Sometimes there’s a monster hiding in the closet. Other times there are bugs crawling underneath the bed, or a witch lurking in the hallway.

Countless observational studies have reported an association between media and sleep problems in children. But a new study published Monday in the American Academy of Pediatrics now purports a causal relationship between violent or inappropriate media and poor sleep.

The study’s authors analyzed more than 500 children aged 3 to 5, their media viewing habits and their quality of sleep. The results show that replacing violent content with age-appropriate and educational alternatives can indeed lead to improved down time.

“The results of this study are no surprise to me,” says clinical psychologist Wendy Walsh. “Young children are very concrete, literal thinkers. They just don’t get the concept of pretend monsters or pretend violence. Violent media can cause anxiety in small children that can clearly disrupt sleep.”

It should be noted that the study’s results are drawn from a much larger data pool, part of an even broader study aimed at decreasing aggressive behavior and increasing “pro-social” behavior (voluntary behavior intended to benefit another). The methods of that study include persuading parents to substitute more appropriate media content for their kids, since considerable research has demonstrated that violent media exposure can lead to aggression, as well as other behavioral and emotional problems in young children.

Participating parents were asked to lead an intervention of their kids’ TV time by replacing inappropriate content with shows such as “Curious George,” “Sesame Street,” and “Dora the Explorer.”

Moms and dads were also encouraged to watch TV alongside their children and to discuss the programs they watched with their kids. Not only does this practice increase parental awareness of the content their child is exposed to, but it also seeks to enhance the positive effects of educational and pro-social media (although another study concluded such co-viewing and subsequent discussions might not mitigate the negative effects of violent or scary media).

Quality of sleep was assessed by utilizing a portion of the Child Sleep Habits Questionnaire, which in part quantifies the frequency of sleep-onset latency, repeated night wakings, nightmares, difficulty waking in the morning and daytime tiredness. The most common sleep problem, according to the authors, was difficulty with sleep-onset latency, with 26% of children taking  more than 20 minutes to fall asleep a majority of nights per week.

Following baseline measurements, children in the intervention group experienced statistically significant reductions in their sleep disruptions, as compared with those subjects in the control group. Six months after the interventions ended, however, the improvements decreased. The study’s authors therefore encourage parents to continue making healthy media choices for their children as they grow older and media options continue to evolve.

“Whether that video content is violent or not,” Walsh adds, “watching any TV... before bed can affect the ability to sleep well. TV is just too stimulating before bed, even for adults.”

Article Source: CNN

Friday, May 2, 2014

What causes sleep problems?

If you are having trouble sleeping or have some feeling of fear during sleep. Here are some causes that may interfere deep sleep. 

There are many reasons you may experience sleep problems. Common causes of sleep problems are:
  • a poor sleep routine – going to bed too early or too late, or not relaxing properly before bed
  • a poor sleep environment – sleeping somewhere uncomfortable, or with too much light or noise
  • changes to sleep patterns – working night shifts or sleeping in a new place can be a problem if your body doesn’t adjust
  • unhelpful psychological associations – developing anxieties or phobias about going to sleep after a period of poor sleep, or associating the bedroom with being active
  • physical illness – being uncomfortable or in pain, having a physical sleep condition such as snoring or sleep apnoea (problems breathing while sleeping), or having a hormone or neurological disorder such as an overactive thyroid or Parkinson’s disease
  • alcohol, street drugs and stimulants – (including caffeine and nicotine)
  • medication – having trouble sleeping as a side effect of certain medication, such as epilepsy and asthma drugs, or antidepressants
  • stress, worry and anxiety – feeling nervous about a specific issue, such as work, money, family or relationships; or a specific event, such as an interview or appointment
  • trauma – finding it hard to sleep after experiencing a traumatic event, such as an accident or a bereavement; experiencing long-term sleep problems as a result of long-term trauma or abuse, particularly if the trauma happened during childhood
  • mental health problems