Parents have suspected it for the longest time. Now scientists have confirmed it. Watching television can stop children from getting a good night's sleep.
Researchers from the University of Florence have found that television viewing can reduce levels of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep patterns. Children who were 'denied' television for a week had a 30 per cent increase in their melatonin levels by the end of the experiment, the researchers discovered.
They based their findings on a study of 74 children from the Tuscan town of Cavriglia who watched an average of three hours of television a day. The children were aged between six and 12 years, and researchers found that the effect of television was more pronounced among the younger participants.
Melatonin levels are governed by light, and they start to rise once the sun sets. It's unclear from the study if the effect is caused simply because of the light coming from the television, or because of the electrical emissions.
The research team also suspects that television viewing might contribute to the onset of premature puberty, but there was insufficient evidence from their study to prove this.
(Source: La Repubblica, 27 June 2004).