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Young Children Don't Sleep Enough

Even Infants Are Sleep-Deprived, a Trend That Continues
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WebMD Health News

March 30, 2004 -- Apparently, you're never too young to have sleep deprivation. A new survey finds that children in every age group from infancy to elementary school don't get even the minimum recommended levels of sleep.

And, usually, their parents are clueless about it.

"There is a clear disconnect on what parents think their children need and what the kids are really getting," says Jodi Mindell, PhD, who chairs the National Sleep Foundation task force that prepared the survey. "When you ask parents if their child gets enough sleep, most say 'yes.' When you compare that to the number of hours that children are actually sleeping, two in three parents will learn their children don't."

The Sleep in America Poll, done each year by the foundation, adds more evidence to a well-documented fact: Americans are sleep-deprived.

Do you have trouble sleeping? Take this quick quiz.

"We know from all past six years of this poll that adults are not getting enough sleep," says Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Sleeping Through the Night. "And there are many studies showing that adolescents don't get enough sleep.

"This time, it's not a question of kids losing sleep because they have to go to school earlier. The school times for children attending daycare and elementary school haven't changed," she tells WebMD. "But they are still sleeping less than they should by at least 30 minutes a night. That amounts to two lost nights of sleep each month."

Some likely reasons, suggests the survey, based on answers from 1,500 parents of young children:

  • Two in three kids have at least one sleep problem several times a week, such as resistance in going to sleep, trouble falling asleep, night awakenings, or snoring. And one in three needs attention from their parents at least once a week.
  • Nearly half of kids -- including one in three preschoolers -- have a TV in their bedrooms. They get about two hours less sleep each week than children who don't.
  • One in four kids has at least one caffeinated beverage a day, and averages three and a half hours less sleep per week than children who don't have caffeinated drinks.

Bad Habits Start Young

But perhaps most surprising: Half of all infants are sleep-deprived; they are getting less sleep than they should -- usually falling short by about one to two hours per 24-hour period.

This suggests that even as babies, children are developing bad sleeping habits. "And that concerns me as they move on to adolescence -- when we know they don't get enough sleep," says Amy Wolfson, PhD, of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., who has studied infant sleep habits and the effects on their parents.

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