Many U.S. Kids Not Getting Enough Sleep on Weeknights
October 30, 2019
Roughly a third of U.S. schoolchildren do not get the recommended amount of sleep on weeknights, researchers reported here. The good news is that those who do get adequate sleep are more likely to have a positive outlook on school and exhibit other signs of flourishing.
"Overall, the results showed that if school-age children don't sleep enough, they are less likely to flourish or show a positive approach towards learning" study researcher Hoi See Tsao, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician affiliated with Hasbro Children's Hospital at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, told Infectious Diseases in Children.
Tsao and colleagues analyzed responses from parents and caregivers of 49,050 children aged 6 to 17 years in the combined 2016-2017 National Survey of Children's Health. Respondents answered questions on how many hours of sleep on average a randomly selected child in their household received. Based on AAP guidelines, sufficient sleep was defined as getting at least 9 hours on an average weeknight for children aged 6 to 12 years and at least 8 hours on an average weeknight for children aged 13 to 17 years.
Researchers also analyzed parent and caregiver responses for "flourishing markers" in children -- such as whether they showed interest and curiosity in learning new things, cared about doing well in school, worked to finish the tasks they started, did all required homework and stayed calm and in control when faced with a challenge.
Researchers found that insufficient sleep was reported in 36.4% of children aged 6 to 12 years and 31.9% of children aged 13 to 17 years. Broken down by age group, children aged 6 to 12 years who did not get the recommended amount of sleep had:
- 61% increased odds of not showing interest and curiosity in learning new things;
- 45% increased odds of not caring about doing well in school;
- 44% increased odds of not completing their homework; and
- 18% increased odds of not finishing tasks they started.
With 7 or fewer hours of sleep on an average weeknight, children aged 12 to 17 years had:
- 34% increased odds of not showing interest and curiosity in learning new things;
- 36% increased odds of not completing their homework;
- 20% increased odds of not finishing tasks they started; and
- 34% increased odds of not staying calm and in control when faced with a challenge.
Tsao and colleagues, who adjusted their analyses for numerous factors -- age, sex, race, ethnicity, federal poverty level, screen time, adverse childhood experiences including abuse and neglect, and even mental health conditions that could potentially interfere with sleep -- found that teens who did not get 8 or more hours of sleep on weeknights had 35% increased odds of not demonstrating a combined measure of the flourishing markers, whereas children aged 6 to 12 years who did not reach the 9-hour mark in sleep each night had 15% increased odds of not demonstrating the combined measure -- although this finding was not statistically significant.
Tsao said efforts to help children get the recommended amount of sleep each night should especially focus on limiting digital media use before bedtime, creating bedtime routines and delaying school start times -- a strategy supported by the AAP that has been associated with better academic performance in students.
"I think the implications of the study are vast," Tsao said. "For pediatricians, the study reinforces the message that we're trained to be counselors and resources for families if they're having trouble getting their children to sleep at a regular time." - by John Schoen
Reference: Tsao HS, et al. Sounding the alarm on the importance of sleep: The positive impact of sufficient sleep on childhood flourishing. Presented at: AAP National Conference & Exhibition; Oct. 25-29, 2019; New Orleans.
Disclosure: Tsao reports no relevant financial disclosures.