(HealthDay News) – Healthy media with educational and prosocial content leads to fewer sleep problems for children aged 3–5 years, compared with violent or age-inappropriate media.

To examine the association between media use and child sleep problems, Michelle M. Garrison, PhD, and Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute in Washington, conducted a randomized controlled trial in which families were assigned to a healthy media use intervention. In the intervention, families of children aged 3–5 years were encouraged to replace violent or age-inappropriate media content with quality educational and prosocial content. The Child Sleep Habits Questionnaire was used at six, 12, and 18 months after baseline to assess sleep measures.

The researchers found the most common sleep problem to be delayed sleep-onset latency, seen in 38% of the 565 participating children. There were significantly lower odds of “any sleep problem” among children in the intervention group at follow-up (odds ratio, 0.36), with a trend toward a decrease in intervention effect over time (P=0.07). No significant effect modification was seen for baseline sleep or behavior problems, gender, or low-income status, but there was a trend toward an elevated effect for those with high levels of violence exposure at baseline (P=0.096).

“The significant effects of a healthy media use intervention on child sleep problems in the context of a randomized controlled trial suggest that the previously reported relationship between media use and child sleep problems is indeed causal in nature,” the authors write.

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