Children have poor quality sleep. A new study carried out in Valencia shows that 37.4% of children aged from 6 to 8, 25.3% of those aged between 9 and 11, and 31.8% of those aged from 12 to 15 wake up feeling refreshed only once a week, or even not at all. The results also show that 4.26% of them fall asleep in class more than three times per week.
“It is important to point out that the way we sleep throughout our lives depends on how we learn to sleep as children”, Gonzalo Pin Arboledas, lead author of this study and a doctor at the Valencian Sleep Unit at the Quirón Hospital of Valencia, tells SINC. “This is why we need to place particular focus on health education”.
The study, carried out in the region of Valencia, but which can be extrapolated to the rest of Spain, is based on children’s own opinions about the quality of their sleep, and analyses their distribution according to age, sex and geographical origin. The sample (1,507 surveys) was drawn proportionally from the three provinces in the region according to areas of residence – urban or rural, coastal or inland.
The results, published in the journal Anales de Pediatría, show that between 76.1% and 91.2% of children feel that they have some kind of sleep-related problem and 53.9% of those aged from 12 to 15 have nightmares more than once a week. In addition, 37.4% of those aged from 6 to 8, 25.3% of those aged from 9 to 11 and 31.8% of those between 12 and 15 wake up feeling refreshed only once a week, or not at all.
Gonzalo Pin says that “teachers say 4.26% of schoolchildren fall asleep in class more than three times per week, which shows that these children have a poor quality of sleep, and they themselves are aware of it”. The conclusions, which mirror statistics from other Western countries, show that children suffer from chronic lack of sleep due to bad habits they acquire.
“The most striking point is that 15% of the sample have no regular time for going to bed on school nights – in other words these very small children are left to decide for themselves when to go to bed. We live in a 24-hour society, which sends out a signal to young people that sleep is of no great importance, when in fact sleep plays a major role in the fight against obesity and poor school performance”, the researcher explains.
The authors will present these results to the public authorities, so they can take whatever health education measures they see fit. “Society has changed, and it is important to adapt to these changes without overlooking children’s education. We need to increase education measures and make people aware of the importance of sleep”, they conclude.
G. Pin Arboledas, M. Cubel Alarcón, G. Martin González, A. Lluch Roselló y M. Morell Salort. “Hábitos y problemas con el sueño de los 6 a los 14 años en la Comunidad Valenciana. Opinión de los propios niños”. Anales de Pediatría 74(2):103 - 115, febrero de 2011.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology