American kids are sleep deprived - study suggests

Children are sleeping less than specialists recommend, and many parents are not happy about it, according to a survey of American households by the National Sleep Foundation. The foundation, an independent organization that supports sleep education, announced yesterday that its annual survey suggests that children, from newborns to fifth-graders, are getting one to two hours less sleep every 24 hours than is recommended.

The survey indicates that infants, ages 3 to 11 months, were getting about 12.7 hours of sleep daily, while specialists suggest 14 to 15 hours.

For toddlers, age 12 to 35 months, the poll suggests that the average child slept 11.7 hours, while 12 to 14 hours is the recommended amount of daily sleep.

Daily sleep averaged about 10.4 hours for preschoolers to 6-year-olds, the survey indicated. Specialists recommend 11 to 13 hours of sleep for this age group, report

Children in every age group are not meeting even the low end of experts' sleep recommendations, the poll found. And parents aren't as aware of the problem as they should be, the group said. It's not just on the parents, it's in the community, it's in the after-school activities and play dates. Everything can start piling on top of each other. The process of naturally winding down and going to sleep doesn't happen until much later," she said.

Indeed, many sleep problems in children arise from a failure on the part of parents to establish routines early in life that allow the child to fall asleep at a reasonable hour, said Kendall Sprott, director of community pediatrics at Children's Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Parents also can unknowingly reinforce undesirable behaviors by playing with children or giving them food when they wake up in the middle of the night, report

The reasons children aren't getting enough sleep include the many activities children are involved in, social events attended by them and their families, homework and various distractions, including television and computers.

Studies show that children who have televisions in their bedrooms get less sleep than other children, Chervin says.

The poll's findings were based on telephone interviews with 1,473 randomly chosen adults who were a primary caregiver of a child 10 years of age or younger.

Although the poll didn't include teenagers, Chervin says good habits established early are more likely to carry on through the teen years, according to

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