Electronics Stealing Sleep From Many US Kids, Poll Shows

Megan Brooks

March 04, 2014

American children are not getting enough sleep, and all the laptops, smartphones, and televisions in their rooms may be a big part of the problem, according to the latest annual Sleep in America Poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

The task force behind the poll says parents can make a difference by setting boundaries around electronics use, enforcing rules, and setting a good example.

"For children, a good night's sleep is essential to health, development and performance in school," task force member Kristen L. Knutson, PhD, from the University of Chicago in Illinois, said in an NSF news release. "We found that when parents take action to protect their children's sleep, their children sleep better."

The 2014 Sleep in America poll was an online survey of 1103 American parents of children aged 6 to 17 years. It was conducted from December 12 through December 23, 2013. Sampling error for the full sample is ±4.0 percentage points.

Sleepy Kids

The vast majority of parents (>90%) felt that sleep was important for their own mood, health, and performance as well as for their child's mood, health, performance, and behavior. Yet many of their children are not getting the recommended amount of nightly sleep. According to parent responses, less than half of all children (45%) get 9 hours or more of sleep each night, with shorter sleep times more common at older ages.

According to the news release, by parent estimates, typical sleep times are 8.9 hours nightly for children aged 6 to 10 years, 8.2 hours for children aged 11 and 12 years, 7.7 hours for children aged 13 and 14 years, and 7.1 hours for those aged 15 to 17 years.

These sleep times fall short of NSF recommendations of 10 to 11 hours nightly for children aged 5 to 10 years and 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night for the other 3 age groups.

Lead by Example

Roughly one quarter of parents estimate that their child sleeps 1 hour less on school nights then they need. Still, the majority of parents felt their child's sleep quality was excellent (43%) or good (48%), although older children were reported to have worse-quality sleep.

The presence of electronic devices in the bedroom, such as a television, computer, tablet or smartphone, video game console, or music player, may be partly to blame for poor sleep quality, according to the researchers.

Parents report that nearly 3 (72%) of 4 children aged 6 to 17 years have at least 1 electronic device in the bedroom while they are sleeping.

According to the news release, teenagers who leave devices on are estimated to get, on average, 30 minutes less sleep on school nights (7.2 hours per night) than those who never leave devices on (7.7 hours), the poll found. "To ensure a better night's sleep for their children, parents may want to limit their children using technology in their bedroom near or during bedtime," task force member Orfeu Buxton, PhD, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, said in the release.

"Parents need to be good role models in their responsible use of electronics and their children will follow suit," added task force member Monique K. LeBourgeois, PhD, from the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The poll shows that children whose parents have healthy sleep environments tend to have healthier sleep environments themselves. Nearly two thirds (65%) of children whose parents have 1 or more interactive electronic devices in their bedroom also have at least 1 device in their own bedroom. Only 24% of children have a device in their bedroom if their parent does not.

"Electronics are prevalent in American homes, so it is important for parents to have a family strategy. Be vigilant about your children's electronics use in the bedroom, set sleep times and talk to your children about the importance of sleep," task force chair Helene A. Emsellem, MD, from the Center for Sleep & Wake Disorders and George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, DC, said in the news release.

The task force also recommends parents set and enforce sleep rules for their children and limit evening activities that can interfere or affect sleep quality. "Parents who enforce sleep-related rules inconsistently or not at all report their children get less, lower-quality sleep than peers in stricter households," the task force says.

The NSF offers a variety of sleep tools and tips on its Web site.

"2014 Sleep in the Modern Family." NSF. Full text


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