Parents often unaware of kids’ sleep problems

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 18th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Most parents monitor the junk food their kids eat because too much is unhealthy. But there’s another “junk” villain lurking out there that endangers kids’ health, and most parents don’t even know about it.

It’s junk sleep… that is, poor-quality sleep because of sleep problems. And even though elementary-school-aged children often have problems sleeping, researchers say few parents recognize it.

Their study, conducted at King’s College in London and published in the journal Child Development, surveyed three-hundred pairs of eight-year-old twins and their parents about sleep problems. About half of the twins were identical.

Researchers asked both groups if the children had trouble falling asleep. Forty-five percent of the children said yes. Only seventeen percent of their parents thought their children had trouble falling asleep. Nineteen percent of the parents said their children showed signs of parasomnia [pair-ih-SOM-nee-uh]… that is, walking or talking in their sleep, or moving a lot during sleep. Not surprisingly, children who resisted going to bed had more problems falling asleep.

Experts say healthy sleep is to the brain what healthy food is to the body. Parents know when very young children have sleep problems, but older kids learn not to bother their parents when they can’t fall asleep, and the problems often go unnoticed.

So how many hours of Z-Z-Z’s [ZEEZ] a night do school-aged children need? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests about twelve hours for three- to six-year-olds, about eleven hours for seven- to twelve-year-olds and about nine hours for twelve- to eighteen-year-olds.