Wider Education and More Of It

Very many aspects of modern life have been named as contributors to childhood obesity, including the infringement of electronic media upon normal sleep. So far, no one seems to have explained this aspect in terms that are satisfactory to everyone, but the correlation between bedroom TV, behavior problems, and obesity has been observed over and over again.

There are multiple reasons why households have to be parsimonious with sleeping space. Grownups like to watch television before falling asleep, and sometimes a child is asleep in the same room. So, what’s the problem? It is an easy habit to rationalize. What harm could result? The problem is, we don’t know what the problem is:

Researchers say they cannot be sure why the link between TVs and being overweight exists.

Prof. Russell Viner posits…

[…] a damaging combination of a more sedentary lifestyle, increased exposure to junk food advertising, disruption to sleep and poorer ability to regulate eating habits when watching TV.

Nighttime television may not involve extensive snacking, but it seems to affect weight problems through a different, indirect route. We started by talking about the difficulties faced by first-year college students, who can be divided into three categories. One group slept with noise as a child, with subsequent negative effects on attitude, behavior, and eating patterns. Maybe they never got better.

Another group dealt with noisy sleep as children, did or did not face some bad consequences, and eventually left it behind. Facing this obstacle again in college, they might be triggered into a replay of their childhood disturbances, or may figure out how to change the circumstances.

A third group would have been raised in such a way that nighttime television did not impinge on their lives. In a college dorm or shared apartment, these freshpeople might be forced into environments with stressful noise levels for the first time.

No escape

We can close our eyes to prevent most visual stimuli, but the sense of hearing does not shut down at night. Things get into the brain. Brain waves are different in sleep. Maybe people are rendered more suggestible. Maybe vulnerable children are not meant to hear dramatic dialogue or gunshots while asleep. Maybe violent noise causes nightmares. Maybe children’s brains need periodic rest. We put mitts on their little hands to prevent them from scratching themselves, but do we protect them from intrusive and possibly harmful noise?

Listening to the TV soundtrack, even if it does not seem particularly distressing, could be as harmful as drinking lead-contaminated water. This might be true for adults, too. But at least a grownup has a choice, and if trapped with a TV sleeper, can get their hands on earplugs or white-noise headphones or whatever. Babies and small children have no choice, and perhaps should be left to quiet repose.

Sleep corrupted by a constant barrage of noise must surely come under the heading of “low-quality sleep.” A very large number of professionals have pointed out the connection. The link between nighttime TV viewing and obesity is particularly noticeable in girls.

A curious researcher might ask, “Are they obese because of nocturnal TV binges? Or do they stay up all night watching TV because they are obese?”

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “TVs in children’s bedrooms ‘increase risk of obesity’,” BBC.com, 06/02/17
Image by Mattie B/CC BY-SA 2.0

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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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