Children's Sleep Times Remain Steady

Children and teenager sleep times are appropriate for current recommendations

(RxWiki News) Insufficient sleep relates to various health problems. These include obesity, mental health problems and academic difficulties for kids. So are teens and kids getting enough sleep? A research team decided to find out using national survey data from three different years.

These researchers found that children are getting approximately the amount of sleep that is recommended. Infants sleep about 13 hours, toddlers about 11.5 hours, grade schoolers about 10 hours and teens about 9 hours.

There was no evidence that children and teens have been getting less overall sleep over the past 15 years.

"Children need plenty of sleep."

The study was led by Jessica A. Williams, MA, from the Department of Healthy Policy and Management in the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California at Los Angeles. Williams and her colleagues reviewed the 1997, 2002 and 2007 data from the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. This was a nationally representative survey with information gathered about newborns through 18-year-olds.

The study included 6,776 children and teens after survey participants from all three years were added together. The participants' families had kept sleep diaries for the survey, and the researchers added up all the minutes reported of daytime sleep and total sleep. Then they estimated average sleep times across all age groups.

They found that the average sleep time for babies was a little more than 13 hours a day, which then decreased steadily as children grew up. Typical toddlers get about 11.5 hours of sleep each night, and school-age children get about 10 hours of sleep each night.

The average sleep time for teenagers, ages 14 to 18, was about nine hours a day. The study also found that older children tended to sleep more on the weekends than during the week.

There was greater variation across the ranges of sleep times for children 6 years old and younger and for teenagers. The researchers did not find significant differences in sleep times that related to a child's gender or race/ethnicity.

They also did not find significant changes across the years, from 1997 to 2002 to 2007. The total sleep time children and teens are getting has appeared to remain constant over those years.

Overall, the researchers found that, on average, children and teens do tend to be getting close to the recommended amount of sleep for their age.

However, the study used family-reported data through sleep diaries, which is not as accurate as using other forms of sleep tracking that more objectively determines how much sleep an individual gets.

Not using objective measures such as actigraphy - devices worn to measure a person's movement - mean the results may be less reliable, according to William Kohler, MD, the director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill, Florida.

He said he also has recalled reading research about more sleep deprivation among teenagers.

"My clinical experience is that teenagers are very sleep-deprived, but then I have a bias since people who come to me have sleep problems which could be contributed to by lack of sleep," Dr. Kohler said.

Overall, however, he said there has been evidence published about more sleep deprivation on teenagers. More studies using objective measurements of sleep could help resolve this discrepancy in reporting.

The study was published November 26 in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. No external funding was reported for the research, and the authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
November 24, 2012