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American Children are not Sleeping Enough, Survey Finds

Update Date: Mar 03, 2014 11:06 AM EST

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) conducted a new survey to see just how much sleep American children are getting today. The researchers discovered that children are not getting as much sleep as they should and reported that electronic devices are to blame.

For this survey, over 1,100 parents were asked to estimate how many hours their young children slept on the average school night. The parents had children between the ages of six and 17. The researchers divided the children up into four age groups, which were six to 10, 11 to 12, 13 to 14 and 15 to 17. The NSF found that the amount of sleep children got were on average lower than the foundation's recommendations.

For the youngest and oldest groups of children, the foundation recommends 10 and 8.5 hours of sleep per night respectively. Instead, the six to 10 age group gets an average of 8.9 hours per night whereas the 15 to 17 age group gets 7.1 hours of sleep each school night. For the age groups of 11 to 12 and 13 to 14, the NSF recommends 8.5 hours for both groups but they only get 8.2 and 7.7 hours respectively.

The researchers found that the children's lack of sleep could be due to the presence of electronic devices, Around 72 percent of the children had at least one kind of electronic device in their bedrooms. The researchers reported that children who had devices in their bedrooms slept an average of half an hour less in comparison to children without any devices in their bedrooms.

"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," poll task force member Orfeu Buxton, Ph.D. said reported by HuffPost.

Sleep expert, James Maas, added according to Today, "If you look at these gadgets within an hour of bedtime, what happens is melatonin - the brain hormone that puts you to sleep - has been suppressed for the last hour. Now, it's going to take you much longer to go to sleep." Maas is an author and a retired professor and chair of Cornell University's psychology department.

Even though children are getting less than the recommended hours of sleep, the researchers did note that 90 percent of parents believe that sleep is very or extremely important for their children. These parents would most likely agree to work on ways to improve their children's sleeping experience particularly on school nights.

The NSF's "Sleep in America Poll 2014: Sleep in the Modern Family," can be accessed here.

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