Bedtime and Your Health: What Are the Risks of Watching TV?

Posted: March 6, 2018 8:00:00 AM CST

Children TV

One of the popular practices among our society today is binge-watching television. I myself am guilty of this. Not only do I find myself spending a far greater number of hours in front of a screen than I would like to admit, but I find myself watching more at one particular time of day: bedtime. Does that cut down my hours of sleep? Can that be healthy?

Health Impacts

According to the Sleep Foundation, television at bedtime could negatively impact our health (Foley, Ancoli-Israel, Britz, and Walsh, 2004). They conclude that certain amounts of exposure to light stimulate a nerve pathway from the eye to parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature, and other functions that can make us either drowsy and tired or wide awake. So, when we click on that remote and the screen’s colors flash across our bedroom walls, we could potentially be setting ourselves up for a sleepless night long after we turn the television off. This could be detrimental to our functioning the next day. 

Furthermore, a study by Cespedes et al. (2014) of bedroom television and sleep duration found that the presence of a television in the bedroom may directly reduce sleep time due to an increase in mental and emotional arousal from light exposure. This is detrimental to sleep onset, duration, and quality. In turn, increasing the likelihood of poor academic performance, depression, injury, and obesity risk. These health risks are not to be taken lightly; we must all assess our own bedtime habits. Your poor habits may not only be affecting you, either. Studies show that children tend to mimic the actions of their parents (Owens et al., 1999). So, if mom and dad are watching the television before bed, children may more likely to grow up and do the same.  

Time for a Change

The next time you think to yourself, “I’ll just turn this on so I have some noise to fall asleep to,” or, “I’ll just watch one episode then hit the hay,” don’t fall into a regular pattern. Take a second to acknowledge the coming day. Are you going to have a long day at work or school? Do you have something the following night that will also disturb your sleep routine? Learn to recognize how this is going to affect others around you, especially children. Taking things like this into consideration may help you recognize how valuable those hours of sleep could be.  As a college student, I can empathize with those who have formed poor bedtime habits and understand how hard it can be to get back into a good “swing of things.” But, for all of us, it’s time to click off the TV to better our health.

Keywords: bedtime, television, health, sleep


Cespedes, E. M., Gillman, M. W., Kleinman, K., Rifas-Shiman, S. L., Redline, S., & Taveras, E. M. (2014). Television viewing, bedroom television, and sleep duration from infancy to mid-childhood. Pediatrics, 133(5), e1163-e1171. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-3998

Foley, D., Ancoli-Israel, S., Britz, P., & Walsh, J. (2004). Sleep disturbances and chronic disease in older adults: Results of the 2003 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Survey. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 56(5), 497-502. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2004.02.010

Owens, J., Maxim, R., McGuinn, M., Nobile, C., Msall, M., & Alario, A. (1999). Television-viewing habits and sleep disturbance in school children. Pediatrics, 104(3), e27-e27.

By: Brenna Schneider

Category: General, Natural and Social Sciences, Psychology

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