With No Firm Science, Sleep Standards Are Slipping
Kids never got enough shuteye, even back in grandpa’s day.
That’s according to a century’s worth of expert advice and sleep studies, which a team of researchers has now distilled into a brief report in the journal Pediatrics.
“There is a common belief that children are not getting enough sleep and that children’s total sleep time has been declining,” Lisa Anne Matricciani of the University of South Australia in Adelaide and colleagues write.
And while it’s true that kids aren’t getting as much sack time now as they were in the late 1800s, that doesn’t mean experts weren’t worried back then, too.
In fact, as the Australian researchers combed through older and older literature, the recommended sleep time was always a good half-hour higher than what kids, or their parents, said they got.
“No matter how much sleep children are getting, it has always been assumed that they need more,” the team says.
So why are the standards slipping?
According to Matricciani and company, there just isn’t any good science on which to base recommendations. They went through 32 sets of sleep advice, and only one provided any reasoning for its guidance: the actual sleep of 500 healthy kids.
Today, the National Institutes of Health says adults commonly need between eight and eight and a half hours of sleep, whereas newborns should get 16 to 18 hours a day.
Children fall in between, with preschoolers needing 11 to 12 hours of slumber and older kids and adolescents 10 hours.
Those standards are based on how long people sleep when they’re not interrupted. But one expert told Reuters Health there is still little ironclad science behind the numbers.