(NaturalNews) Television viewing before bed is a significant contributor to chronic health problems, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.
Although most adults need at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night, as many as 40 percent of U.S. adults fail to get this much. Lack of sleep is a major contributor to chronic health problems, including obesity, heart disease and depression.
In an attempt to find easy ways for people to get more sleep, researchers surveyed 21,475 people over the age of 15 on their activities in the two hours immediately before going to sleep and the two hours immediately after waking up. They found that most people went to work within two hours of waking up, while nearly 70 percent spent at least part of the two hours before bed watching television.
On average, people in the United States spend one of their last two waking hours in front of the television set. While the researchers expected this result, they were surprised to find that people were significantly more likely to set their bedtime based on TV schedules rather than sleepiness or a need to get up at a certain hour.
"They just wait till the show ends" before going to sleep, researcher Mathias Basner said.
"Given the relationship of short sleep duration to health risks, there is concern that many Americans are chronically under-sleeping due to lifestyle choices," researcher David Dinges said.
The researchers also found that people living in the Mountain or Central time zones, where most TV shows play an hour earlier, tend to get more sleep than those living in the Pacific or Eastern zones.
"According to our results, watching less television in the evening and postponing work start time in the morning appear to be the candidate behavioral changes for achieving additional sleep and reducing chronic sleep debt," Basner said.
"While the timing of work may not be flexible, giving up some TV viewing in the evening should be possible to promote adequate sleep."