Only Half Of US Children Get Enough Sleep During The Week

brother and sister sleepy

Sleep is the one thing that we all probably don't get enough of in our lives, but also the first thing to get pushed aside if we have other things "more important." We know better, but too often, we don't do better. The same goes for our kids. A new study is shedding light on a pretty alarming fact: only half of the children in the United States are getting enough sleep.

According to new research being presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2019 National Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans, only 48% of school age children in the United States get 9 hours of sleep most weeknights. That stat alone is enough to make a parent's jaw drop.

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Abstract author Hoi See Tsao, MD, FAAP says, "Chronic sleep loss is a serious public health problem among children. Insufficient sleep among adolescent, for example, is associated with physical and mental health consequences including increased risk of depression and obesity and negative effects on mood, attention and academic performance."

"As healthcare providers, we want every child to reach his or her full potential, Dr. Tsao said. "Our research shows that children who get enough sleep are more likely to demonstrate measures of childhood flourishing in comparison to children with insufficient sleep."

Tired school boy with hand on face sitting at desk in classroom. Bored schoolchild sitting at desk with classmates in classroom. Frustrated and thoughtful young child sitting and looking up.
Credit: iStock

The data was collected for this study after a survey was done of parents and caregivers of 49,050 children ranging in age from 6-17 years old in the combined 2016-2017 National Survey of Children's Health. The questions that they answered revolved around how many hours of sleep a randomly selected child in their household slept on an average school night. Additionally, they defined sufficient sleep for this study whenever a child slept greater than or equal to 9 hours on an average weeknight.

Important markers for this study were if the child showed interest and curiosity in learning new things; cared about doing well in school; did required homework; worked to finish tasks started and stayed calm and in control when faced with a challenge. Before now, previous research suggested that the better the markers children have, the more likely they are to have healthy behaviors and fewer risky behaviors.

There of course were risks that the researchers came to associate with insufficient sleep such as lower levels of parental or caregiver education, children living in families at lower federal poverty levels, increased duration of digital media usage, increased number of adverse childhood experiences and the presence of mental health conditions.

Dr. Tsao shared just how important this study noted that children are getting enough sleep for their age. She also suggested things like limiting media usage, bedtime routines, the length of the school day and school start times can help kids achieve this.

"Interventions like these may help children demonstrate more measures of childhood flourishing, enhance their development and give them brighter futures," she said.

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