Young Children Don't Sleep Enough
Even Infants Are Sleep-Deprived, a Trend That Continues
WebMD News Archive
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.
"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