Kids sleep better when parents set rules

Although the majority of parents know how important sleep is, 90 percent of children don't get the recommended hours of rest. Too much screen time may be one reason why. (Credit: iStockphoto)

When parents and children have electronic devices on after bedtime, poor sleep is likely. Household rules about technology at night and a regular bedtime routine can help families get better sleep and more of it, experts say.

For a new study published in the journal Sleep Health, researchers evaluated households in the United States with children aged 6 to 17 years old through internet-based interviews. A total of 1,103 parents or guardians of an average age of 42 completed surveys. Fifty-four percent were female.

“We were interested in parental perception of the importance of sleep duration and sleep quality, habits, and routines of the families and children, and obstacles preventing adequate sleep,” says Orefu Buxton, an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State.

Although the majority of parents endorsed the importance of sleep, 90 percent of children didn’t get the full amount of time recommended for their age group.

Some of the primary consequences of poor sleep among children and adolescents are behavioral problems, impaired learning and school performance, sports injuries, problems with mood and emotional regulation, and a worsening of health-related issues, including obesity.

Evidence also indicates that in adolescence, lack of sleep may be related to high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, suicidal behaviors, and drowsy driving.

24/7 society

Experts recommend that children between the ages of 6 to 11 get at least 9 hours sleep, and teenagers should get at least 8 hours.

The survey suggested several potential reasons for poor sleep:

  • Electronic devices in the bedroom
  • Busy daily schedules with competing work, school, social, and recreational activities
  • Noise from vehicular traffic, commercial or industrial activity, and neighbors


“An important consequence of our modern-day, 24/7 society is that it is difficult for families—children and caregivers both—to get adequate sleep,” Buxton says.

“Good quality and sufficient sleep are vital for children,” Buxton says. “Just like a healthy diet and exercise, sleep is critical for children to stay healthy, grow, learn, do well in school, and function at their best.”

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University, University of Chicago, and the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders contributed to the study. The National Institutes of Health provided funding.

Source: Penn State