According to recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, toddlers need more than 12 hours of sleep per day, children up to four years old need between 10 and 11 hours and up to age seven kids should get at least 10 hours.
A new study titled “Distinct Developmental Trends in Sleep Duration During Early Childhood“, published in the journal Pediatrics, illustrates children who regularly got too little sleep had worse physical, emotional and social health than those who slept the average amount.
“Sleep is important for a lot of reasons, and can influence health and well-being and cognitive functioning,” stated lead author Christopher A. Magee, of the University of Wollongong in Australia. “The typical sleep pattern appeared to have the best outcomes as measured in this paper.” This is a relatively new area of research, so researchers are unable to say for sure that this pattern of sleep causes better health and wellbeing.
The researchers used Medicare Australia data from a group of almost 3,000 children to track the kids’ health and quality of life at four points between birth and seven years of age.
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Parents completed sleep journals and answered interview questions about their children’s sleep patterns, and included how often their children had experienced problems like difficulty waking, feeling sad, problems socializing or missing school due to illness, which were meant to rate the child’s overall quality of life. Researchers divided the kids into four groups based on their sleep patterns: “typical sleepers” slept the most as infants, about 14 hours, and gradually decreased their sleep duration until age seven, when they got an average of almost 11 hours per night.
“Persistent short sleepers” showed a similar decline in sleep hours over time, but they always got about an hour less sleep than the typical sleepers. Only 11 percent of kids fell into this group. “Initially short sleepers” started out like the short sleepers, but by age five or six were getting as much sleep as typical sleepers. This group included 45 percent of the kids, followed by typical sleepers, who made up 40 percent.
Less than three percent of kids had the most unusual sleep pattern, which started short, with sleeps of less than 10 hours in infancy, gradually increasing with time. Researchers called this group the “poor sleepers.”
Poor and initially short sleepers tended to have a lower physical functioning score on the quality of life scale than typical sleepers. Persistent short sleepers also had the physical disadvantage, as well as lower emotional and social functioning scores
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics