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The Sleep Expert's Final Word on TVs in Bedrooms

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Heather,

My child has a TV in her room. I've heard that's a no-no, but she loves it and it really helps us. What should I do?

Tuning In

Dear Tuning,

Take it out of the room. I know it sounds extreme and way too simple to be true, but everyone in the family is better off in the end without a TV in the bedroom. She will have big feelings about it to start but, like changing any other sleep habit, she will adjust over time.

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Kids of any age who have TVs in their rooms don't sleep as much on average as kids whose rooms are screen-free. There are many possible reasons for this:

  • Kids who watch TV before bed sleep less than those who stick to books and songs;
  • The light from television screens—as well as other electronics, like iPads—suppresses the release of melatonin. When this happens, we don't feel drowsy, and our bodies are tricked into thinking it's still daytime;
  • With a screen in the room, there's bound to be more "Just one more episode!" or confusion in the child's mind as to whether her bedroom is for sleeping or entertainment;
  • If the TV is actually on while the child is falling asleep, it can be very disorienting if she wakes up later in a quiet room.

Explain that you're changing the bedrooms so everyone can sleep well, and empathize with her feelings. Re-structure the bedtime routines to add in other engaging and enticing elements: a new installment of a story with a cliffhanger every night or singing songs while making shadows with a flashlight on the wall. Let your child pick wall decals to go in the space where the TV was, or choose a poster together online. Hang artwork, and make a special trip to the store to buy a new stuffed animal to help with the change.

RELATED: Is White Noise Really That Great For Baby Sleep?

Eventually she will get the message that TV and sleep are separate, and she'll find new ways to get comfy and fall asleep.

Happy sleeping!

Heather

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Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

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