Does your child have unhealthy sleep habits?
Children as young as eight may already have unhealthy sleeping habits, which could be affecting their school performance and health, says new reseach.
Carried out by researchers at McGill University, Canada, the new study looked at the sleep patterns of 144 children aged six to 11 years old during the academic year.
Participants were divided into three age groups: 6-7 years, 8-9 years and 10-11 years. Each child's sleep pattern was assessed over seven nights using a miniature actigraph, a wristwatch-like device that measures movement to evaluate sleep.
The recordings showed that the older the children were, the greater and more significant the delay in sleep start time and the shorter their sleep duration.
Only 17% of children aged 6-7 got the recommended amount of sleep, with this figure dropping to just 2.5% for those aged 10-11.
In addition, the team found that those aged 8-11 increasingly displayed the unhealthy sleep habits usually found in teenagers, such as later bedtimes, inconsistent sleep schedules and sleep deprivation.
Poor sleep patterns have previously been shown to impair academic performance at school, as well as children's physical and mental health.
"Our findings contradict the prevailing assumption that sleep patterns remain largely unchanged during the school-age period, from six to 13 years old," says Reut Gruber, an associate professor in McGill's Department of Psychiatry and lead author of the study.
HOW TO ENCOURAGE HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS
Gruber added that the findings of this study highlight the importance of parents setting boundaries with regard to their children's bedtime, even as their kids get older and become more independant.
Such boundaries include setting a regular time to go to bed as well as to wake up. Parents should also teach their children about the importance of sleep and encourage them to seek help if they are having sleep problems.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per day on a regular basis for optimal health. Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should aim to get 8 to 10 hours sleep.
• The findings of this study are to be published in the journal Sleep Medicine.