A recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that 69 percent of American children aren't getting enough sleep. The researchers found that even infants are affected and since children don't sleep enough, their parents are sleep deprived, too.
Sleep experts say that babies need 14 to 15 hours of sleep a day, but the survey showed that infants between three and 11 months old got only 12.7 hours. Toddlers (age 12 to 35 months) need 12 to 14 hours of sleep but are getting only 11.7. Preschoolers and kindergarten kids need 11 to 13 hours of sleep but are getting only 10.4 and those in the first through fifth grades who need 10 to 11 hours actually slept about 9.5 hours daily.
Youngsters who don't get enough sleep can be cranky and irritable the next day and don't function as well at school as kids who do get adequate rest. Sleep experts say that without enough sleep, kids' relationships with family and friends can suffer. And when sleep-deprived, babies and toddlers may not be as alert and open to the world as they should be.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that parents take these steps to promote healthy sleep habits in their children:
- Determine how much sleep each youngster needs and make that a part of the child's daily schedule.
- Establish a regular bedtime and wake-up time for each child.
- Keep televisions and computers out of children's bedrooms.
- Make sure your children don't consume beverages and foods containing caffeine.
- Recognize sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakening, snoring, resisting going to bed, trouble breathing, or loud or heavy breathing while sleeping, and discuss them with your child's doctor.
I would add that total sleep need not all be at night; afternoon naps can help make up for night-time deficits and should be encouraged.
Andrew Weil, M.D.