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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 May, 2003, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
Children losing out on sleep
Children need plenty of sleep, say experts

Up to two-thirds of children in the UK are not getting enough sleep, researchers have found.

They calculate that by the time a child reaches their seventh birthday, they have missed out on as much as 4,500 hours sleep compared with recommended levels.

One in eight children actually sleep less than the amount recommended for adults.

Recommended sleep
Age two: 13 hours ( actually get 12 hours)
Age three: 12 hrs (10.5 hrs)
Age four: 12 hrs (10 hrs)
Age five: 11 hrs (10 hrs)
Age six: 11 hrs (10 hrs)

Among children whose parents are out of work the figure is one in four.

Most parents accepted that lack of sleep impaired their children's performance and behaviour - two out of three had no idea of the recommended levels of sleep suggested for children.

The research also found that one in 10 of the 500 parents surveyed admitting that they had never read their children a bedtime story.

Instead, children are now falling asleep to television shows, computer games or videos.

Over half of the parents surveyed as part of the research said their children had televisions in their bedrooms.

Hectic bedrooms

Professor Jim Horne, of Loughborough University, an expert in sleep deprivation, said: "Bedrooms are changing from place of rest and tranquillity to places where there are lots of things to keep children awake, such as computers and televisions.

"I would not allow a child to have a television or a computer in their bedroom or at least place firm limits on their use."

Scientific evidence shows that adequate night-time sleep is just as important as healthy eating and regular exercise for children to develop.

It is believed that sleep deprivation may harm neurological development and can contribute to behavioural problems including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Recent studies conducted by scientists in Israel showed that even losing an hour of sleep a night can have a noticeable effect on a child's mental performance.

Some experts believe that chronically tired children will become chronically tired adults and will therefore be unable to cope with the stresses and strains of modern day life.

Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, a consultant sleep physician, told the BBC the study relected just how hectic children's lives were in the information age.

He said it was important that children went to bed at a predictable time so that their bodies got used to a regular routine.

Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, St Thomas's Hopsital
"The study reflects the demands on time of children in the information age"

Sleep loss hits child brain
04 Mar 03  |  Health
Sleep deprivation dangers
23 Mar 99  |  Health

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