Background: Although research has suggested that extensive television viewing may be associated with sleep problems, the direction of this association has not yet been determined.
Objective: To investigate directional hypotheses regarding the association between television viewing and sleep problems during adolescence and early adulthood.
Design: The Children in the Community Study, a prospective longitudinal investigation.
Participants and setting: A community-based sample of 759 mothers from upstate New York and their offspring were interviewed during the early adolescence (mean age, 14 years), middle adolescence (mean age, 16 years), and early adulthood of the offspring (mean age, 22 years).
Main outcome measures: Television viewing and sleep problems during adolescence and early adulthood measured using the Disorganizing Poverty Interview and the age-appropriate versions of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children.
Results: Adolescents who watched 3 or more hours of television per day during adolescence were at a significantly elevated risk for frequent sleep problems by early adulthood. This elevation in risk remained significant after offspring age, sex, previous sleep problems, offspring psychiatric disorders, offspring neglect, parental educational level, parental annual income, and parental psychiatric symptoms were controlled statistically. Adolescents who reduced their television viewing from 1 hour or longer to less than 1 hour per day experienced a significant reduction in risk for subsequent sleep problems. Sleep problems during adolescence were not independently associated with subsequent television viewing when prior television viewing was controlled.
Conclusion: Extensive television viewing during adolescence may contribute to the development of sleep problems by early adulthood.