Summary The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of various forms of TV exposure on the quality of children's sleep. In this randomized population-based survey questionnaires concerning TV viewing, sleep disturbances, and psychiatric symptoms were administered to 321 parents of children aged 5–6 years. Sleep disturbance scores were the main outcome measures. Active TV viewing and passive TV exposure were related to sleeping difficulties, especially sleep–wake transition disorders and overall sleep disturbances. Particularly, passive TV exposure and viewing adult-targeted TV programs were strongly related to sleep disturbances. The association remained significant when socioeconomic status, family income, family conflicts, the father's work schedule, and the child's psychiatric symptoms were controlled statistically. The adjusted odds ratios were 2.91 (95% CI 1.03–8.17) and 3.01 (95% CI 1.13–8.05), respectively. TV viewing and particularly passive TV exposure and viewing adult-targeted programs significantly increase the risk of sleeping difficulties. The results suggest that health-care professionals should be aware of the association between TV exposure and sleep disturbances.