Kids Not Getting Enough Sleep

Meanwhile, Experts Move to Improve Awareness for Adults

From the WebMD Archives

March 31, 2004 -- Most American children are not getting enough sleep, thanks largely to caffeine consumption and bedroom televisions, according to a poll released Tuesday by the National Sleep Foundation.

The poll shows that kids up to the fifth grade get less sleep on average than experts recommend for optimal learning and good school performance. Nearly 70% of children experience difficulty falling asleep, snoring, or have other sleep problems that can diminish sleep quality, according to the poll of 1,470 of adults who care for a child 10 years old or younger.

"What is troublesome is that the problems start in infancy," says Richard L. Gelula, the foundation's CEO.

Infants aged 3 to 11 months are on average getting 12.7 hours of sleep per day, though experts recommend four to 15 hours, according to the poll. School-aged kids between thefirst andfifth grade get an average of 9.5 hours per night, which averages out at least 3.5 hours less sleep than they should get each week, it found.

Sleep is closely linked to learning and memory ability, which can both affect school performance. Foul moods and even depression are also tied to chronic sleep deprivation in both children and adults, says Carl E. Hunt, MD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"Even missing an hour a night, we do pay a price," Hunt, who is a pediatrician, tells WebMD.