Did you watch television before you went to bed last night? If the TV is right in your bedroom, it might have kept you from getting as much sleep as you needed to be alert and ready to learn.

Children who have televisions in their bedrooms get less sleep than those who do not, according to a study published in the September issue of the magazine Pediatrics. Sleep researchers from the Brown University School of Medicine in Providence, R.I., surveyed the parents and teachers of 495 kids in kindergarten through fourth grade. They asked about their children's sleeping habits, bedtime routines and TV viewing routines. They also asked about daytime sleepiness.

The researchers discovered that 26 percent of the children and two-thirds of the parents surveyed had televisions in their bedrooms. And it turned out that the kids with TV sets in their bedrooms were more likely to have difficulty falling asleep and more likely to wake up at night than those who did not. As a result, the bedroom-TV watchers were more sleep-deprived--and that led to daytime sleepiness.

The researchers say sleep problems may happen because watching TV overstimulates kids just at the time that they should be calming down and relaxing before sleep.

Judith Owens, lead researcher on the project, became interested in the connection between TV viewing and sleep loss after she noticed that kids who came to the Hasbro Children's Hospital Pediatric Sleep Disorder Clinic in Providence, where she works, reported that they watch a lot of TV in bed.

Getting adequate sleep is very important for school-age children, Owens says. To promote sleep, she says, kids' bedrooms should be havens for relaxation and rest. That means no TVs!

If feeling sleepy and unable to concentrate in the daytime isn't enough to make you turn off the TV before bedtime, think about this: A Stanford University researcher recently asserted that reducing TV watching can prevent excessive weight gain in children.

Researcher Thomas N. Robinson worked with 192 third- and fourth-graders in a yearlong program designed to curb time in front of the TV. The kids who turned off the tube gained significantly less body fat than a control group of kids the same age whose TV watching remained at their usual level. The typical American child spends four hours a day watching television and videos or playing video games, Robinson reports.

During the study, Robinson monitored the weight, physical fitness, physical activity and diet of the kids. Over the course of the school year, the study showed that, on average, the reduced-TV kids gained nearly two pounds less than the other group did.

Turning off the TV can mean that you get more sleep and maintain a healthier weight. Not only that, you'll avoid seeing all kinds of negative images, reports that American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Many pediatricians believe that watching images of violence that appear on the screen can harm kids.

"Children who see a lot of violence from movies, TV shows or video games may become more fearful and look at the world as a mean and scary place," the AAP says.

Taking control of your television habit doesn't mean that you can't still make time to see your favorite programs. And if turning off the TV can turn you toward more healthful habits, it's a pretty good trade to make.

Tips for Parents

With more and more TV options, creating a balanced viewing diet can be a real challenge. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents limit their children's TV viewing to one to two hours of quality programming a day. These tips from the AAP can help you decide what to watch:

* Read TV listings and reviews.

* Preview programs before your kids see them. Talk to teachers and pediatricians to learn what they recommend.

* Select TV programs that build interest in other activities, such as reading, hobbies or the outdoors.

* Look for programs with educational content and positive characters and values.

* Make an extra effort to watch some shows together. By watching together, you're telling your children you care. "Co-viewing" can lead to lasting educational benefits.

For You to Do

Want to trim your TV time? First, monitor your TV habits by keeping a diary for seven days. Be honest, and write down everything you watch. Write down the amount of time, too. At the end of the week, add up all the hours and divide by seven to find your average daily TV time. In the next week, try to trim that time by one-third. (For example, if you watch three hours a day, cut down to two.) Go through your diary and cross out anything you watched that wasn't worth the time. Then make careful selections about the shows you did enjoy. Did you need to see all of them? Planning ahead instead of "channel surfing" is a good way to reduce TV-watching time.