05 Dec ABC Radio – Are Children and Adolescents Getting Enough Sleep?
Our friends at ABC radio Brisbane gave us a call on Tuesday to have a chat about a report released recently. This report is in fact chapter four of Growing up in Australia by Tracy Evans-Whipp and Constantine Gasser. While the findings of this report are not surprising to us here in the sleep disorders centre, for those in the general public, we hope it is likely to shine a light on what many may actually know but yet be unaware of: that our kids are missing out on sleep.
Our lab manager Phil made a couple of observations:
- This data is from Australian kids, between 1500-2000 of them, so its pretty powerful
- We know it’s natural that teenagers circadian rhythms shift forward, pushing them to later bed times and wake times
- Society however does not shift with these children
- See figure 4.1 – that the average bed times steadily raises from ages 6-16
- See figure 4.2 – that the average wake times during weekdays stays the same from ages 6-16, but the wake times get later on weekends as children age – suggesting an unmet need to sleep in on week days as children age.
- See figure 4.3 – this is a telling graph showing that the average sleep duration is decreasing from ages 6-16, with a gap between school nights and weekends widening as children age
- This progress sleep restriction during week days is not ideal for growing, healthy children and is likely to be caused by external factors i.e. set wake times.
We know sleep is important, particularly for mental health and learning, for both adults and children. We know teenagers are significantly having their sleep time reduced by external factors, which is not their fault, the circadian shift is natural. This report shows quite nicely that unchanging wake times during school days is the primary external cause of sleep restriction for teenagers. As such there is understandably a growing voice that later school start times are likely to be the most ideal solution here… but this may not be practical.
See the full report here, you can download the whole chapter for free also: