Mostly Cloudy   75.0F  |  Forecast »

Kids Aren't Getting Enough Sleep: Why, and What Parents Can Do

It's no surprise children aren't sleeping as much as they should. How does it happen, and what can you do to ensure healthy sleep habits?

Kids in the United States are in the midst of a "sleep debt," according to polls conducted by the non-profit National Sleep Foundation. That means they're getting less shut-eye than experts say is necessary. And recent studies calculate the cost could be steep – including permanently impaired general intelligence, short-term memory, decision-making and attention focus.

So how much sleep should kids get, why aren't they getting enough – and how can parents foster a snooze routine that'll ensure kids are healthy and up to speed?

By the numbers

The recommended amount of sleep per day for teens is nine or more hours, but a 2006 poll found high school seniors averaging barely seven. School-age kids not yet in high school need 10 to 11 hours of slumber – but typically clock-in at 9 1/2.

The trends are similar for younger kids, according to a 2004 poll. Infants under 1 year require 14 to 15 hours of sleep but average less than 13. Toddlers need 12 to 14 hours and, on average, don't quite make minimum. And preschoolers demand 11 to 13 hours of shut-eye, but fall just shy with 10 1/2 average hours of sleep.

Modern culprits

Reasons range from behavioral choices to sleep disorders. For example, the 2004 poll found that the bedrooms of more than 40 percent of school-age kids are equipped with TVs, and that those kids go to sleep an average of 20 minutes later. It also discovered that 69 percent of all children experience one or more sleep problems at least a few nights a week.

Then there's the perceived plethora of too many structured activities. A widely held theory is that kids' lives are busier nowadays, and a good night's sleep is sacrificed.

"I think kids have too many activities," says James Murphy, an English teacher in Huron Township. "Parents want their kids to play an instrument, take dance classes and play sports. Then they get home and have a box of video games to play. Then there's also homework."

Along those lines, school bells across the United States ring fairly early. At Summit Academy High School, where Murphy teaches, the start time is 7:55 a.m. But at many other Michigan schools, that can be closer to 7 or 7:30. Other studies have shown that later start times can translate to better grades.

For some kids, learning or sleeping disorders might compound the issue.

Bedtime routine

No matter the cause, it's up to parents to teach their children how to develop smart sleep habits – something to give them the best foundation for learning and growing into capable, focused and healthy adults.

Try quiet pre-bedtime activities like taking baths and reading stories, suggests Isabelle Beaulieu, Ph.D., assistant director at the Center for Neuropsychology and Learning, which has offices in Ann Arbor and Bloomfield Hills. Screen time – in front of the television or computer – is not recommended.

"Kids also need physical activity during the day; being outside and getting fresh air is important," Beaulieu says. "But physical activity just before bedtime can interfere with falling asleep – and so can eating."

To encourage sleep, it's OK to use lulling, soft white noise – like the purr of a de-humidifier. And parents shouldn't use sleep as a punishment ("Go to bed right now!"), Beaulieu says, so kids don't fall into the habit of associating sleep as a negative activity.

"It's really important to have a good sleep schedule," Beaulieu says. "Kids have to have a predetermined bedtime, even during weekends and on vacations as much as possible. Especially with younger kids, routine is really important."

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Capturing Memories with Project Life by Stampin' Up

Capturing Memories with Project Life by Stampin' Up

Looking for an easier way to save and display your family memories and keepsakes? This kit has what you need to make scrapbook journaling lots of fun.

Passport Rules for Kids

Passport Rules for Kids

If you're planning on traveling with your family outside of the country, they'll need a passport. Find out what you need and how to get passports for children.

Tips for Saving Cash on Flights

Tips for Saving Cash on Flights

Find out how your family can save money when flying abroad and in the country.

Tips for Traveling Internationally with Your Children

Tips for Traveling Internationally with Your Children

Thought about taking your kids for a trip abroad? You should! Here are tips to help make your cultural excursion easier – and cheaper – than you might think.

Staying Home Alone: How to Know When Your Child is Ready

Staying Home Alone: How to Know When Your Child is Ready

Whether you just want to run an errand or need to hit the gym for a break, it could be time to let your tween stay home alone. Here are a few ways to know your kid is prepared.

Craft Roundup: Get Ready for the Beach

Craft Roundup: Get Ready for the Beach

Whether you're hitting the pool or lake, southeast Michigan is packed with watery summer fun. These projects are inspired by (and ready for) this very topic!

Social Savvy: Raising Kids Who Can Make Connections

Social Savvy: Raising Kids Who Can Make Connections

At each stage of development, there are things parents can do for their kids to help them with social skills and making friendships.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement