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Confessions of a Telly Addict

Today on TheSchoolBus, we covered a story about a new study which has linked glowing screens to poor sleep in children. With a television, computer and smartphone, all plugged in and glaring, the room stops being a peaceful sleeping place, and turns into an entertainment centre. This was very much the case for me, and still is! I struggle to fall asleep without the low hum of the TV in the background. When I do eventually drop off, I have incredibly vivid dreams and never feel fully rested when I wake up.

I am just old enough to remember a time when there was one television in the house. It was in the living room, in the corner, and we all watched it together – usually something Mum or Dad wanted to watch (although occasionally something good on Sky TV like “The Simpsons”).

I will never forget the day that Mum and Dad FINALLY installed a TV in my bedroom. At last I could be master of my own entertainment schedule! Even better, as I had a wire connected to the Sky box in Mum and Dad’s room, I had my pick of so many channels (which was great as there were only 4 terrestrial channels at the time!) I discovered a world of Nickelodeon, The Cartoon Network and The Disney Channel.

It is only now, nearly twenty years later that I can see the effect that watching so much television did. Unbeknownst to my parents, I would turn down the volume, switch on the subtitles, and stay up until the early hours watching The Paramount Comedy channel! Needless to say, I was always tired and this very well may have affected my behaviour and achievement at school.

A teachers’ survey by the UK Sleep Council back in March 2012 showed that 92 per cent of teachers felt that their pupils were so tired that they were unable to pay attention in class and 24 per cent of primary teachers admitted that they had to let children who were very tired sleep in a corner of the classroom.

It is little wonder that parents are being urged to remove the televisions from their children’s rooms. At 29-years-old, my attention span is barely enough to keep me interested between commercial breaks. Not long ago, another study found a direct link between poor sleep routines and ADHD – lack of sleep in children manifests itself as hyperactivity!

Teachers will be able to spot the signs of a child or teenager who obviously has not slept well the previous night. They will be disinterested in the lesson, they may act out. They might talk a lot or yawn. They may not be able to sit still. I’m sure that my teachers were able to see these behaviours in me!

So how can we change this? Is it time to introduce “Bedtime Etiquette” lessons to our pupils?

The NHS makes these suggestions for improving the sleeping habits of teenagers;

  • Cut out the caffeine to beat insomnia
  • Do the same thing every night at the same time to develop a good bedtime routine
  • Read a book or listen to the radio
  • Write a “to do” list for the next day to clear the mind of distractions
  • Ban screens from the bedroom
  • Invest in thick curtains or a blackout blind (particularly in the summer when the sun sets later)
  • Don’t eat too much before bed

Well I’m starting tonight (about 19 and a half years too late!) I’m unplugging the television in the bedroom, and taking my iPhone and Macbook down to the sitting room, where they will stay!

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I'm an ex-teacher with a real passion for education, politics and teaching. I am also a keen writer and blogger with strong opinions.

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