Preschoolers Not Getting Enough Sleep
Study Shows Lack of Sleep May Not Just Be a Problem for Teens and Adults
WebMD News Archive
Nov. 30, 2005 -- Lack of sleep may not just be a problem for students and
adults. A new study shows even preschool children aren't getting enough
Researchers found children under age 5 got an average of 8.7 hours of sleep
at night and 9.5 hours per day including naps, which is far short of the 12 to
15 hours of sleep per day recommended for children in this age group.
"We were very surprised to find how little preschool aged children
actually sleep at night," says researcher Christine Acebo, PhD, of the
Bradley Hospital Sleep and Chronobiology Research Laboratory, in a news
release. "We are concerned that the problem of too little sleep extends
even to the youngest members of families."
Although sleeping habits of young children are a major concern for parents,
researchers say there is little research on the sleeping patterns of children
under 5. Most recent research has focused on the effects of sleep on older
children and adults.
"Other studies show that decreased sleep in older children, teenagers,
and adults may lead to physical and cognitive problems including decreased
physical performance, lower academic performance, and reduced cognitive and
other daytime functioning," says Acebo. "Several studies in adults also
link lack of sleep to neuroendocrine abnormalities that may lead to overeating
"I think based on what we know in older children, teens, and adults,
it's fair to speculate that insufficient sleep in children would be related to
difficulties -- although this is an area that's been little studied for
decades," says Acebo.
Young Children Losing Sleep
In the study, published in the journal Sleep, researchers studied
the sleeping habits of 169 children between ages 1 and 5. The children wore
activity monitors on their ankles or wrists to record their sleep once a week;
their mothers kept detailed diaries of the children's sleeping patterns.
The results showed that the children slept an average of 8.7 hours per night
and about 9.5 hours in a 24-hour period, including naps. In addition, the study
showed that 82% of children over 18 months were not taking naps on some or all
The National Sleep Foundation and several other children's health
organizations recommend young children in this age group get a total of 12 to
15 hours of sleep a day.
Researchers also found children from families of lower and higher
social-economic status (SES) had different sleeping habits.
"Children in families with lower SES spent more time in bed at night
with more night waking and more variable bedtimes than those in higher SES
families who were in bed for fewer hours, but had more regular schedules,"