Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
It can be hard to get scientists to agree on things. But these days there is consensus that kids these days are not getting enough sleep, and a recent paper confirms this.
Researchers reviewed published data on sleep duration for 5-18 year olds, gathered between 1905 and 2008. The published papers represented data from 690,747 youth drawn from 20 countries.
They found a notable and systematic decline in average number of hours of sleep over this 103 year period. The net result is that children today sleep, on average, 1 hour less per night. This pattern was especially true for youth in the US, Europe, Canada, and Asia.
It’s important to keep in mind that while 1 hour per night may not sound like a lot, this adds up to a lot of sleep loss over days, weeks, months, and years — all of which can take a toll on the body, especially in childhood and adolescence.
There are certainly individual differences in sleep — some kids need more, some can get by with less. A good start point for parents is to consider the guidelines for different age groups such as those published by the National Sleep Foundation. Note that there are ranges for each age that try to account for the innate differences between kids. So if your child is getting less sleep than the recommended lower limit, it may be worthwhile to discuss this with your pediatrician to determine if you should try to promote longer sleep.
Lack of sleep can have many effects on behavior and health. In my next post, I will present the findings of two recent papers that demonstrate how shortened sleep in toddlerhood can have an effect on unhealthy increases in fat mass later in childhood — a potential first step toward risk for diabetes and heart disease.