TUESDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Despite concerns to the
contrary, American children do seem to be getting adequate sleep, a
new analysis reveals.
"Our estimates are in line with the amount of sleep recommended for children by the [U.S.] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggests that children in the U.S. are getting an appropriate amount of sleep on average," said study author Jessica Williams, a doctoral candidate at the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The finding stems from an in-depth look at current sleep norms
among infants and children, as reflected by data collected in 1997
-- with follow-ups in 2002 and 2007 -- by a large National Science
Foundation survey that set out to assess behavioral and mental
health development from birth through age 18.
Williams and her colleagues report their findings in the Nov. 26
online issue of the
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The authors noted that the CDC recommends that children between
the ages of 1 and 3 years get roughly 12 to 14 hours of sleep per
day, while those between ages 3 and 5 years should get 11 to 13
hours per day. By the time kids reach the ages of 5 to 10 years, 10
to 11 hours of sleep are deemed sufficient. By adolescence, 8.5 to
9.5 hours of sleep is considered enough.
In the survey, childhood activities, including sleep time, were
detailed in family diaries logged by survey participants, which
initially included about 2,800 children, later dropping to about
1,400 children by the final follow-up.
The investigators determined that infants were sleeping an
average of 13-plus hours per day, a figure that slowly but
continuously fell as they aged through adolescence. By the time
teens were between 14 and 18 years old, the average amount of sleep
hovered at about nine hours per day, with all the figures holding
up regardless of race or ethnicity.
Daytime sleep was much higher among infants, with a fall-off by
the time children reached school age. The team further observed
that older children tended to sleep more during the weekend than
during the week.
The researchers concluded that American children do seem to be
getting the recommended amount of age-appropriate sleep, contrary
to what they suggested was mostly unsubstantiated anecdotal
evidence that recent generations of infants, preteens and teens
have been struggling with mounting sleep deprivation.
That said, Williams cautioned that while her analysis shed some
light on the normal patterns of sleep among American children --
and how closely they matched current recommendations -- it did not
render any verdict as to whether or not such patterns are, in fact,
But Williams nonetheless suggested that the norms observed in
the study might "be used by clinicians and parents to determine
when a child falls far from the median as a signal that that
child's sleep patterns may need further assessment."
For her part, Shelby Freedman Harris, director of the behavioral
sleep medicine program and of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at
Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said that "this study
stands out because it suggests something very different than
previous reports of sleep averages in kids."
She noted: "Many papers have found that kids are getting less
sleep on average than this paper did. Others suggest different
sleep averages based on racial/socioeconomic differences, and these
researchers didn't. The averages that each age group [were] getting
in this study was on par with the current sleep-need guidelines in
the sleep field."
However, added Freedman Harris, who is also an assistant
professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Albert Einstein
College of Medicine, "What is not surprising though, but consistent
with pediatric sleep knowledge, is the gradual decrease of
sleep-need as kids get older. Sleep helps kids' bodies grow at a
rapid rate. It helps their brains develop. As they get older and
drop naps, their total sleep times gradually decrease. In
adolescence, it is thought that teens' melatonin levels drop off
and delay, leading to later bed [times]."
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the body's sleep-wake
Freedman Harris also stressed that the amounts of sleep found in
the study aren't necessarily the ideal for kids' health. "It does
help to guide treatment recommendations though, if a child is
significantly higher or lower, sleep-wise, than the average," she
For more on sleep, visit the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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