A study by the National Sleep Foundation has estimated that nearly half of teenagers in the United States aren't getting enough sleep (in three-quarters of those cases, insomnia was to blame for that lack of sleep) and nearly a third of teenagers are only getting a borderline acceptable amount of sleep.
Furthermore, it's not just teenagers that are seeing increasing rates of insomnia and sleep disturbance. Between 20% and 30% of children under five suffer from some type of sleep disorder.
Even in childhood, it's thought that stress is the number one cause of insomnia; from homework to excessive obligations and even teenage dating, stress can crop up in a number of ways.
So how much sleep do children need each night?
- 5 to 7 year olds: 11 hours of sleep,
- 8 to 9 year olds: 10 and a half hours of sleep,
- 10 to 11 year olds: 10 hours of sleep,
- 12 to 14 year olds: 9 and a half hours of sleep,
- 15 to 20 year olds: 9 hours of sleep.
Unfortunately, the average teenager is only getting around seven and a half hours of sleep on school nights, and this becomes even less as the child gets older. The average 12th grader gets less than seven hours of sleep.
How to improve sleep in children and teenagers
Developing better sleep habits is the best way to tackle insomnia in children. Make sure children are going to bed and getting out of bed within around half an hour of the same time every day. A bedtime routine can also help.
Children should get regular physical exercise during the day (preferably outdoors), avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening and finish all meals at least two hours before bedtime. Lights should be dimmed and stimulating activities (including watching TV or using electronic devices) should be avoided in the hour or so before bed.
Although childhood insomnia is on the rise, if it’s taken seriously enough and tackled in the right way, our children do not need to continue suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation. Insomnia (particularly in children) should never be ignored.
Last updated: April 13, 2015