Child sleep problems just got more complicated.
Short sleep duration has long been associated with poorer health and wellbeing for kids and their parents.
But a new study has found the amount of sleep isn’t the most important factor for health and wellbeing.
The researchers from Murdoch Childrens Research Institute are now challenging guidelines recommending optimum sleep duration for children.
The study, published in Sleep Medicine, looked at the sleep patterns of over 4000 children using time diaries, and investigated whether there are optimal sleep thresholds for health and wellbeing.
It found only weak associations between duration and health, and no thresholds which led to improvements or reductions in health and wellbeing.
“The results suggest that sleep duration in itself is not a strong driver for good or poor health outcomes in children,” said lead author Dr Anna Price.
“However, we know that children with sleep problems do have poorer health and wellbeing, so the next step is to find out exactly what drives sleep problems, if it isn’t sleep duration.”
Other possibilities include timing and fragmentation – when children go to bed and wake up, how long it takes to get to fall asleep or waking up throughout the night.
The researchers noted the huge range in the normal sleep patterns of Australian children.
While some babies sleep 10 hours a day, others sleep 18; while some nine-year-olds sleep six hours a day, others sleep 14.
“In our study we didn’t find there was an amount of sleep that children should be getting,” they said.