Young children in the United States are getting fewer hours of sleep than recommended for their age. That's the conclusion of new research reported by Bradley Hospital and Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.
"Children in our sample - ages 1 to 5 years old - are only getting about 8.7 hours of sleep at night," says lead author Christine Acebo, who noted the children's sleep patterns during both the day and night were recorded using small activity monitors. "And, if you add up all the sleep during any 24-hour period, it averages less than 9.5 hours, and this is very different from the 12 to 15 hours usually recommended for children this age."
Christine Acebo says the numbers are a lot lower than she had expected and that while the study does not discuss consequences of sleep loss on young children, sleep deprivation in other age groups is well documented.
"Too little sleep in adolescents and adults is related to daytime sleepiness, increases in accidents and injuries, cogitative impairment, academic difficulties and even health risks," she says.
Ms. Acebo says the next step is to study how these health issues play out in small children. She advises parents to be good observers and to watch for signs of sleepiness. "Or even if they are inattentive or hyperactive, they might consider looking at whether the child is getting enough sleep," she suggests.
Ms. Acebo says getting a good night's sleep must be a top priority when raising healthy children.