Children's lives in the developed countries seem to be becoming ever more hectic. With the result they tend to sleep less. A new study reveals that Australian children in the 10-15 year age group tend to sleep at least half an hour less every nigth when compared with just one generation ago.
Increased part-time working hours, mobile phones, computer usage and television watching are to blame, with adolescents no longer adhering to 'lights out', says the University of South Australia's Dr Jim Dollman.
The UniSA study compares the results of two surveys - the 1985 Australian Schools Health and Fitness Survey and the 2004 SA Physical Activity Survey - that involved about 500 children from the same eight schools.
It found that while children woke at roughly the same time in both surveys, about 7am, they were now going to bed about 30 minutes later compared with the 1985 results.
Girls aged 10 to 15 went to bed at 10.10pm, with boys hitting the pillow ten minutes later. Both genders sleep about nine hours a night.
Sleep reduction was even more pronounced in boys from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who are now going to bed about 44 minutes later than the 1985 study.
The study was confined to school days from Sunday to Thursday evenings and did not include holidays. Dr Dollman, of the university's School of Health Sciences, said the finding was worrying because children who went to bed late were inattentive and unable to function effectively at school.
He said the current average hours of sleep were within set guidelines, but they were at the bottom end of the scale and parents should ensure children received adequate rest. Children aged three to five years should have 11 to 13 hours of sleep a night; five to 12-year-olds, 10 to 11 hours and 12 to 18-year-olds, eight to 10 hours.
Dr Dollman said increasingly complicated households, part time work and the abundance of modern gadgets in children's bedrooms had led to a change in sleeping patterns. 'Social trends would indicate that lights out is less likely to coincide with the onset of sleep among youth today,' he said.
'The results of this study underline the importance of routinely monitoring sleep behaviours of children and adolescents.'
That children from poorer sections especially do not seem to be properly monitored is a matter of concern. The very group who should work harder to survive and move up the ladder is getting distracted.