Wider Education, Continued

The subject is still a weight-related struggle that affects college students. Residential density has been cited as a dangerous factor relative to inciting obesity, and it can have many meanings. Of course, there are neighborhoods, and whole cities, where because of elevated housing costs and endemic poverty, more individuals are obliged to squeeze into smaller spaces.

Like aspiring actors newly arrived in Los Angeles, students who rent off-campus quarters may be forced by economic necessity to live packed as closely as residents of a third-world slum. But even in the relatively privileged atmosphere of college residence halls, someone who has always been used to having “a room of one’s own” could feel unbearably afflicted by sharing a double room in a dorm. The unsought company can be very stressful.

The villainous screen

And then, there is television. Some observers feel this is a luxury problem. “Oh boo-hoo, you had a TV in your bedroom.” But residential density is rarely a family’s first choice. If a grownup wants a television in the bedroom, and there is nowhere else suitable for a child to sleep, the grownup and the TV win. If money is not a problem, a kid might have a bedroom TV just because they want it.

The most cursory online search can turn up an entire passel of studies pointing to such problems as increased anxiety, and interference with melatonin production because of the blue light. The background noise definitely seems to be problematic too, and disturbing content can trigger nightmares. It also appears that children with bedroom TV tend to have more mood problems during the day.

In the childhood obesity realm, a bedroom TV is a major obesity villain suspect. In one study, 470 children aged 33 to 71 months (almost three years to almost six years) were asked to wear an actigraph watch for 16 days. According to the study authors,

Children who watched more TV and had TVs in their bedroom displayed significantly shorter sleep duration and worse sleep… Children who had TVs in their bedrooms watched TV later at night, watched more adult TV programs, and had higher negative affect than children without TVs in their bedrooms.

These findings suggest that TV use in young children does impact sleep duration and quality as measured by actigraphy, and daytime napping does not offset these negative impacts.

Here is a worrisome quotation about another actigraph study of 547 slightly older children, age seven to nine years:

New research reveals that media use before bedtime translates to less sleep for children who generally struggle to self-regulate their behavior. Children who scored high on measures of effortful control, however, were able to enjoy a restful night, regardless of their pre-sleep media use.

“Effortful control” is a quality that a child needs in order to say no to a vending machine treat, or to faithfully measure portions at each meal. Childhood, the teen years, and young adulthood are all part of the spectrum. A young person who grew up with unhealthy TV habits is likely to transmit them to college roommates.

For a youth who already has enough challenges, adjusting to a new environment and a brutal academic workload, the sudden addition of night-time TV could be a significant problem, and one that they might feel unable to deal with. Imagine having a roommate with a bullying temperament who says things like, “You’re so sensitive, you expect me to wear headphones? Aw, look at Granny over there, with the eye mask.” People don’t need these kinds of problems.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Television use and its effects on sleep in early childhood,” NIH.gov, June 2019
Source: “Does Bedtime Media Use Harm Children’s Sleep? Only if They Struggle to Self-Regulate Behavior,” PsychologicalScience.org, 06/23/20
Image by Quinn Dombrowski/CC BY-SA 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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