Is it a myth to think it’s OK to have a TV in your bedroom?

I have strong feelings about having a TV in the bedroom.  They shouldn’t be there, especially in a kid’s bedroom. I believe it goes against what a good bedroom for sleeping is and creates sleep issues and not ‘just’ compounding them.

BUT, when I first decided to write this article, I realised I don’t have any facts to back my view up.  Just because it doesn’t feel right to me to have a TV in the bedroom, doesn’t mean it isn’t ok.  We grew up not having TV’s in our bedrooms and when I asked my mother why her response was ‘it just wasn’t something our family did.’ That must have rubbed off on me.

So I set out to read as much research and as many articles about having a TV in your bedroom as I could so you, and I can get an as rounded and informed view as possible.  Sleep.org states that two-thirds of adults across the world go to sleep with the TV on. That’s a lot of people, and if it does affect sleep, then that’s a lot of lost sleep too.

To start with there isn’t much research about TV viewing, sleep and the effect of having a TV in your bedroom. Which means the articles about this are a real mixed bag of opinions.  I read articles from Sleep.org and the Sleep Foundation to Business Insider, Forbes, and Sciencedaily.com, among a few others too. I also dug into the depths of academic journals to see what research I could find into the effects.

Here are the points for and against having a TV in your bedroom.

AGAINST having a TV in your bedroom.

The light from the screen stops you sleeping1Research paper. Johnson JG, Cohen P, Kasen S, First MB, Brook JS. Association Between Television Viewing and Sleep Problems During Adolescence and Early Adulthood. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158(6):562–568. doi:10.1001/archpedi.158.6.562Light affects melatonin production which is the hormone that sends us off to sleep.  The light from your TV is bright enough to make your body think it’s daytime and suppress melatonin production.  This disturbs your body clock making you sleepy during the day.

TV stimulates the brain, however much we think it doesn’t.  The sounds and lights from the TV keep you awake, and so it takes longer to fall asleep.  If you do fall asleep with the TV on then, the sounds and lights rouse you from sleep every so often, without you even knowing it.  This reduces the good quality sleep that you need.

It stops you going to sleep at a reasonable time and can create sleep debt2Research paper. Chaynika Nag & Rohit Kumar Pradhan (2012) Impact of television on sleep habits, Biological Rhythm Research, 43:4, 423-430, DOI: 10.1080/09291016.2011.599630American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Television Watching Before Bedtime Can Lead To Sleep Debt.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2009. You stay up later when you watch TV before going to sleep.  It stimulates your brain and keeps you awake. But also because you want to finish what you’re watching. This is not helpful if you also need to get up early in the morning.

It can cause anxiety and night waking.  Depending on what you watch, TV before bed can make it difficult to sleep due to the content you may be watching. It can send your mind on a crazy thinking frenzy.

More TV means less moving around.  Less physical activity can make you restless and less able to sleep, getting the good quality sleep you need. But having a TV in your bedroom to watch at night doesn’t mean you’d be running about at this time if you weren’t watching it.

It doesn’t look good in the bedroom and attracts dust.  A big screen in the corner of the bedroom doesn’t make for a calm and peaceful bedroom.

Less conversation.  You can spend less time talking with your family or other half if you retreat to the bedroom to watch TV.  However, it could also bring you closer together if you all pile in to view the latest episode of your favourite TV show together.

For those of you with kids, one study found that having a TV in their bedroom was the most compelling reason for resistance to go to bed and a delay in going to sleep.  This causes kids to have less sleep than they need. They also found that parents TV viewing habits and attitude to TV  impact the sleep of their children significantly.  So if you’re into late night TV watching they will too3Research paper. Television-viewing Habits and Sleep Disturbance in School Children Judith Owens, Rolanda Maxim, Melissa McGuinn, Chantelle Nobile, Michael Msall, Anthony Alario Pediatrics Sep 1999, 104 (3) e27; DOI: 10.1542/peds.104.3.e27.

You’re more susceptible to advertising when tired.  When you’re tired your will power reduces, and so you are more inclined to pick less nutritious foods.  In the same way, you may give in to the power of advertising.

 

FOR having a TV in your bedroom.

You can use your time in the morning or evening.  You can catch up on the news or a favourite programme while getting ready in the morning or getting ready for bed at night if you have a TV in your bedroom.

It is very comfortable to snuggle down in bed to watch TV.

You can use it to de-stress from the day.  If you watch something mundane that doesn’t poke at your emotions, then it can send you off to sleep.  However, see point above about TV stimulating your brain.

It’s better to watch TV in bed than use a PC, laptop or handheld device4Research paper. Mosque, Gem, & Reimon, Rubens. (2010). Quality of sleep among university students: the effects of computer and television use in the evening. Archives of Neuro-Psychiatry, 68 (5), 720-725. https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0004-282X2010000500009Because the screen of the TV is further away than a laptop, tablet or smartphone, the light from the screen has less impact on your sleepy hormone production. It can also be less stimulating content than looking at social media, although this is debatable as it depends on what you’re watching.

 

More research is needed, but from what I have read so far, I won’t be running out to get a TV for the bedroom.

It seems that without knowing it, my mother may have set us up to get good sleep.  This isn’t to say we never watched TV all snuggled down under a duvet, we did.  In the living room with the duvet we dragged from our bed in the morning.  And yes you then have to pull the thing back upstairs which is no mean feat as a kid, but it meant our bedrooms were kept for sleeping and sleep we did.

If you or your kid has a TV in the bedroom, it would be a good idea to look at removing it, especially if you or they have problems going to sleep or staying asleep.

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Photo by Ann Kathrin Bopp on Unsplash

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the article, Charli.

    We (me and my four) were a mixed bag when it comes to TVs in the bedroom, not because I had any ideas about it being unhealthy for sleep back then, but simply because it would have been too expensive. And the thought of the arguments over what to watch on a shared TV really put me off when they were young.

    But when I only had two left, with their own rooms, and with a bit more spare cash, I did let two teenagers have one each. Can’t have done much harm because neither has one in the bedroom now. In fact, neither watch much Telly, period. So your observation that your mum set you up young not to bother about TV in the bedroom seems relevant to my four too.

    Maureen Corfield
    1. Thank you for commenting!! Hopefully your 4 sleep well now they are adults? I know one of them does 😉 Not so much when I first met him but then his bedroom was also his living room and everything room, with the TV in it too!! (Although whether that was the reason for not very good sleep is debatable) It’s tough when you’re working on your flat and every other room is a building site.
      x

      CharliD

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