Young Children Don't Sleep Enough
Even Infants Are Sleep-Deprived, a Trend That Continues
Bad Habits Start Young continued...
"Families really need to rethink the importance of sleep in their
households," Wolfson tells WebMD. "When children don't get enough
sleep, their parents don't get enough sleep." Indeed, the survey finds that
parents of infants lose about 200 hours of sleep in their child's first
She wasn't involved in the new survey, but her own research shows that a
baby's sleep deprivation at levels noted in the NSF survey creates "enough
everyday stress" to accumulate to levels of a large traumatic event,"
says Wolfson, author of The Woman's Book of Sleep: A Complete Resource
"Parents whose babies sleep better report higher satisfaction levels in
their marriage," she says. "Can we say parents will inevitably divorce
if their infants don't get enough sleep? No, but it is a risk factor that
should raise concern."
She says that well-meaning parents often mistakenly set the tone for their
infant's poor sleep habits. "Many wait in their infant or toddler's room
until they fall asleep, but when you do that, you don't teach the child
Instead, she recommends that parents help calm their children with goodnight
rituals -- such as reading a story -- and then leave before the child falls
asleep. Babies who fall asleep while alone in their room are more likely to
sleep the night. "Children who need you to be in the room to fall asleep
are more likely to need you when they wake in the middle of night; they look
for you to be there."
Another surprising finding: A slight majority of doctors -- 52% -- don't ask
parents about their child's sleep habits during medical exams. The American
Academy of Pediatrics initiated a treatment policy in 2002 suggesting that
"That really surprises me," says Debra Babcock, MD, a pediatrician
in Los Altos, Calif., who has studied sleep disorders in children at the
Stanford Sleep Disorders Center.
"Although loss of sleep can weaken immunity, it's hard to say if sleep
deprivation leads to any permanent impairment. But it may cause permanent
behavioral problems," she tells WebMD. "There is evidence that children
who show signs of attention deficient disorder are, indeed, sleep deprived.
Certainly there are other reasons that kids get ADD, but being overtired may be
one of them. Some kids treated for ADD, in fact, are in need of a good night's
How can you tell if your children are sleep-deprived?
- Do you have to wake them each morning? "If so, they are not getting
enough sleep," says Mindell, also a professor of psychology at St. Joseph's
University in Philadelphia.
- Do they sleep longer on weekends than during school days? It's another sign
of sleep deprivation.
- Are they cranky, irritable, and overactive? "Compare their mood and
behavior on days when they get more sleep. Once you have a marker on what kids
should be like, you'll get an indication of whether they're getting
Based on recommended levels, that is 14-15 hours per day for infants, 12-14
hours for toddlers, 11-13 hours for preschoolers, and 10-11 hours for kids in
first to fifth grade.