Up to two thirds of children in the UK are not getting enough sleep - with 74 per cent actually getting less sleep than the amount recommended for adults - according to new research released today.
The Travelodge Child Sleep Study, based on the sleep patterns of over 2,000 children aged between six and 15 years, reveals that the average child does not go to bed until 11.20pm.
Chronic levels of sleep deprivation are affecting children’s ability to learn and develop, with over three quarters (79 per cent) saying they find it difficult to concentrate at school. Eight out of ten (82 per cent) of children who took part in the study reported extreme daytime tiredness and over a quarter (26 per cent) admitted to falling asleep in class at least once a week.
The research found that nearly half of children do not follow a regular bedtime routine and do not go to bed at the same time each night. 60 per cent of kids said they felt more ‘grown up’ if they were allowed to stay up longer.
Traditional bedtime rituals are a thing of the past, with 67 per cent of children missing out on a bedtime story. Instead, children are falling asleep to television shows, computer games or DVDs. More than half (56 per cent) said they stay up late playing computer games, browsing the internet, texting their friends and watching television. 69 per cent of children play on a games console every evening, and 62 per cent watch You Tube every night. Some admitted to staying up till 3am or 4am playing on their consoles, whilst others said they had been up since 5am doing the same.
This pre-bedtime activity is turning British children into living zombies, and as a result young Britons appear to be going through life “stoned” because they sacrifice rest in favour of spending more hours at their computer or games console.
These bad bedtime habits mean 62 per cent of children regularly find it difficult to sleep.
The Travelodge Child Sleep Study also highlighted issues around the quality of children’s sleep. Child sleep problems are widespread, with 77 per cent regularly suffering from disorders such as sleepwalking, nightmares, snoring, restless legs and talking in their sleep.
Further findings from the study showed that parents have no idea of the recommended levels of sleep for children or the direct effect of lack of sleep on physical and mental health. Experts suggest children need between 10-12 hours of sleep a night to reach their full potential, but 74 per cent of parents thought 7 hours were sufficient.
Dr Pat Spungin, child psychologist and family life specialist, said: "I agree there is very little information available to parents about the importance of a good night's sleep. Parents should be concerned about the effects of sleep deprivation on their children, as lack of sleep has a negative effect on a child's mood, concentration and attention. Research also shows that children who are sleep deprived do less well academically, show more problem behaviour and have lower levels of social skills.
“Scientific evidence shows that adequate night-time sleep is just as important as healthy eating and regular exercise for children to develop. With lack of sleep linked to poor academic performance, behavioural problems including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obesity, these research findings are alarming.”
Of the 2,000 parents also surveyed as part of the Travelodge Child Sleep Study, 40 per cent said their children did not understand the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep and nearly half (47 per cent) said bedtime was a cause of arguments with their children. To avoid tearful tantrums a quarter of parents admitted to bribing their children to go to bed, using sweets, toys and even money as an incentive.
Two thirds of parents were unaware of the link between sleep deprivation and child obesity, and three quarters of parents were unaware of the association with drug and alcohol abuse in later life.
Whilst 79 per cent of parents said teaching children about the benefits of a good night’s sleep was important, over half (55 per cent) feel there is inadequate support and advice to help parents fulfil this duty. 56 per cent of parents believe the importance of sleep should be taught in schools to help address the problem.
In a bid to tackle child sleep deprivation, Travelodge has launched a ‘Sleep School’ to help raise awareness of the issue and provide parents with expert guidance and advice. Downloadable ‘Schoolkid Slumber Sessions’ will be available for parents and teachers alike at www.travelodge.co.uk.
Shakila Ahmed, Travelodge spokeswoman, said: “As a ‘retailer of sleep’, we found the results of our Child Sleep Study very worrying. It is evident that parents need help in sleep schooling and we believe our ‘Sleep School’ is a much-needed step in the right direction and will help support both parents and teachers in communicating the value of a good night’s sleep to schoolchildren.”
Listed below are the sleeping guidelines for children and tips to help parents ensure their children are getting a good night’s sleep:
2 to 3 years 10.5 to 12.5 hours
4 to 5 years 12 hours
6 years 11.5 hours
7 to 11 years 9.5 to 11.5 hours
1. Establish a regular time for bed each night and do not vary from it
2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, give your child a warm bath or shower
3. Make bedtime fun – read your child a story
4. Do not give your child any food or drinks with caffeine prior to bedtime
5. Avoid giving your child a large meal before bedtime
6. Make after dinner playtime a relaxing time as too much activity close to bedtime can keep children awake
7. Exercise should be included in your child’s day to help them sleep well
8. There should be no TV or music playing while your child is going to sleep
9. Ensure the temperature in the bedroom is comfortable
10. Make sure the noise level in the house is low