In a recent study published online in Pediatrics, Australian researchers state that although many people believe children today are not getting the adequate amount of sleep, this is not a new development. For decades, babies upon babies have not been getting the recommended amount of shut-eye, or so some people think.

Between 1897 and 2009, although the rate of change differed according to age, recommended sleep fell consistently, and the changes were considerable for different age ranges (infants, 4-8, 14-15 years). The amount of sleep they actually got dropped too, by approximately 0.73 minutes annually over time.

Lisa Anne Matricciani, University of South Australia, Adelaide, and her team state:

“Sleep recommendations for children of all ages have consistently exceeded what was known about actual sleep time.”

The authors also comment that the concern about children not sleeping began due to the “new ways” of the world and how they attribute to the lack of sleep in children. For example, new advances in radio, internet, and reading. However, Matricciani and her team noted that the people stating these assumptions were not informed greatly in terms of actual evidence on the matter.

Because of the lack of evidence, it has never been clear exactly how many hours children of different ages should be sleeping. It is also believed that despite the notion that insufficient sleep hours lead to a spectrum of problems, there is not enough evidence to make a bold statement, despite the many claims.

In total, Matricciani and colleagues produced 218 surveys filled out by parents, regarding their child’s sleeping patterns, and 28 studies which offered suggested ways to help children of all different ages sleep better. The data shows that during the 20th century, there was a decrease of about 70 minutes of sleeping time per year in children.

The authors add:

“A limitation of the study was that in this review, sleep duration was based on reports, rather than on objective measures such as actigraphy and polysomnography.But those approaches have only been developed recently, are expensive and time-consuming, and have usually been applied only at the individual level.”

Childhood sleep expert, Dr. David Gozal comments:

“We need to do due diligence and do the nitty-gritty effort of measuring sleep in a large group of the population to find out what’s normal. That has never been done.”

To reach their conclusions, the researchers analyzed 32 sleep-recommendation sets, published between 1897 and 2009. This data was then compared with tests and accounts of the accurate number of hours children slept. The general conclusion reached by the authors suggests that sleep “standards” were lowered by 0.71 minutes each year.

Dr. Tim Olds, professor of health sciences at the University of South Australia in Adelaide says:

“Never trust sleep experts. One child may function best on seven hours, another on 11 hours.”

Olds explains that sleeping is similar to eating in the way that people may sleep even when they are not tired, and eat when they are not hungry. He also says that an actual “norm” for kids sleeping does not exist, because all children are different. However it is important that children get the amount of sleep perfect for their individual need.

Lack of sleep has been known to lead to many diseases, such as, obesity, depression, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In 2009, the recommended sleep time for children was 15 minutes less than it was in 1897.

The authors recommend seeing a doctor if you are a parent worried about your child’s sleeping routine.

Written By Christine Kearney