It’s been called ‘an unspoken public health crisis’ and as the problem of children and sleep comes under scrutiny on Channel 4’s new Bedtime Live show, The Sleep Council has joined the call for parents to teach their children how to get a good night’s sleep.
Despite the fact that seven to 14-year-olds still need a good nine or 10 hours sleep a night, Sleep Council research* has shown more than a third (36%) don’t go to bed until around 9pm on a school night.
And it was the first organisation to expose the problem of ‘Junk Sleep’ back in 2007 when the boom in teenage-owned entertainment gadgetry meant nearly one in three (30%) 12 –16-year-olds was getting just four to seven hours’ sleep a night.
“We have long been concerned about what Bedtime Live presenter and government advisor on children, Tanya Byron, has called an unspoken public health crisis,” said Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council. “Lack of sleep among children and teenagers is a cause for serious concern, affecting their health, wellbeing and ability to perform at school.”
Earlier this month, as part of its National Bed Month (March) campaign, The Sleep Council called on the government to launch a public information campaign to encourage people to understand the importance of good sleep and how to achieve it.
It followed the council’s biggest ever audit of the nation’s sleeping habits and publication of the Great British Bedtime Report which showed that a third of the population (33%) now gets by on just five to six hours sleep a night.
Channel 4’s Bedtime Live show (8pm every Tuesday until April 16 2013) aims to help children and families who are struggling with long-term sleep problems. Professor Byron believes profound lack of sleep is to blame for many behavioural problems among children and that parents are failing to teach their children how to get a good night’s sleep.
That could be because parents themselves don’t know enough about sleep. A Sleep Council survey in 2009* found that while adults recognised the importance of sleep – 80% of those questioned agreed a good night’s sleep is important to help a child do well at school – there was a significant lack of understanding and education about the subject:
• Over 48% of parents with children under 5 didn’t know that a 3 year old needs 12 hours sleep
• Almost one-third of parents didn’t know that 6-12 year olds need 10 hours of sleep a night (33%)
• Less than four out of 10 parents (39%) knew that teenagers need 8-9 hours sleep
• Only 5% of adults had been taught about sleep and its benefits at school
Said Jessica: “Lack of sleep is something of a national epidemic, so it is particularly important for parents to establish good sleep hygiene habits at an early age. This includes regular bedtimes, ensuring the bedroom itself is dark, quiet, well ventilated and free from distracting clutter and gadgets. A comfortable, supportive bed, regularly replaced, can also make a significant difference to the quality of their sleep – and children really do need to understand that good sleep is as vital to overall health and wellbeing as a sensible diet and plenty of exercise.”
The Sleep Council’s free Good-Night Guide for Children is packed with useful hints and tips on establishing good routines for sleep, tackling common sleep problems in children and choosing beds for children and teens. A copy can be downloaded from The Sleep Council website (www.sleepcouncil.org.uk) or by requesting a copy on our leaflet line, 0800 018 7923.
*Based on research for The Sleep Council by Opinion Matters between 27/07/2012 and 03/08/2012 amongst a panel resulting in 1,006 grandparents of 7-14 year old respondents.
* The Sleep Council’s ‘Pillow Time’ survey was conducted online by Opinion Matters between 18/09/09 and 29/09/09. Sample size: 2008 UK adults.