America’s Kids Aren’t Catching Enough Z’s

A new poll out from the National Sleep Foundation reveals that many kids, from infants to 10-year-olds, aren’t logging enough hours of sleep.

l>The 2004 Sleep in America poll found that children in every one of those age groups aren’t meeting even the low end of the range of sleeping hours recommended by the experts. The poll resulted from telephone interviews with 1,473 adult caregivers of children, ages 10 and younger, last fall. Among the findings:

l>• Infants (ages 3-11 months) generally sleep 12.7 hours a day, compared to the recommended 14-15 hours.

l>• Toddlers (ages 12-35 months) sleep 11.7 hours, compared to a recommended 12-14 hours.

l>• Preschoolers (ages 3-5 and 6-year-olds in kindergarten) sleep 10.4 hours, while experts recommend 11-13 hours.

l>• School-aged kids (in first through fifth grades) sleep 9.5 hours, compared to a recommended 10-11 hours.

l>The poll also found that parents or caregivers aren’t always aware of how much sleep their kids need or of the best ways to help them get that sleep. Of those polled, 76 percent say they would like to change their children’s sleep habits. More than half the parents polled reported that their child’s physicians don’t ask about the child’s sleep habits, even though 69 percent of parents say their kids have sleep-related problems.

“Sleep is a vital asset for a child’s health and overall development, learning and safety,” says Richard Gelula, the foundation’s chief executive officer. Most troubling, he says, is that children’s sleep problems seem to start in infancy. “The poll also shows that parents are paying a price for their child’s poor sleep habits, getting less sleep than they feel they need for their own optimum performance.”

Nearly half of those polled reported having their own sleep disturbed about twice a week because a child awakens them during the night. Among the most common sleep problems among children are difficulty falling asleep, night waking, snoring, resisting going to bed, and breathing difficulties, the poll found.

A television in the bedroom and caffeine consumption are major culprits when it comes to older kids not getting enough sleep, the foundation reports, noting that 26 percent of kids ages 3 and up drink at least one caffeinated beverage a day. Meantime, 43 percent of school-aged kids and 20 percent of infants and toddlers have a TV in their bedroom.

The foundation offers the following tips for improving children’s sleep:

• Make sufficient sleep a family priority by determining how many hours individual family members need and taking steps to meet those needs.

• Engage in good sleep habits, through regular bedtime routines, creating quiet, soothing bedrooms and sticking to bedtime and wake times.

• Learn to recognize sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, snoring, or resisting bedtime, and seek help if you need it.

• Talk with your child’s physician about how much sleep your child needs and how to solve any sleep problems.

Losing those bedtime battles?

You need to read 5 Ways to Get Kids in Bed (Without Losing Your Head)