New Poll Says Kids Aren't Getting Enough Z's

They're getting plenty of time on the computer, watching television or talking on the phone, but according to a new poll, today's adolescents aren't getting enough sleep. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the results of not enough shut-eye could show-up in the classroom and even the doctor's office.

Click to Listen

The 2006 Sleep in America Poll by the National Sleep Foundation shows that only 20% of kids between 11 and 17 years old get the recommended nine hours of sleep a night and nearly half sleep less than eight hours a night. Dr. Christopher Drake is a clinical psychologist in Detroit and helped organize the questions for the poll. He says many parents are in the dark about how much sleep their kids need.

"There's sort of a lack, I think, of understanding about the fact that kids in this age group generally need more sleep than adults and that's an important thing to understand for parents because we found in this particular poll that parents aren't recognizing that kids aren't getting enough sleep, in fact, even when the kids are recognizing that they're not getting as much sleep as they need to feel their best during the day and to perform well at school and so forth."

Drake says the lack of sleep doesn't get any better as kids get older.

"Especially as they transition from middle school to high school, they're getting much, much less sleep. So kids are starting out with eight, eight and a half hours or so in the sort of early years of middle school and then as kids get older, we see that they're ending up with sleeping only 6.9 hours in 12th grade."

Which often translates to kids feeling sleepy in class and getting poor grades. The poll found that 80-percent of kids who got the recommended amount of sleep every school night reported getting A's and B's in school. Dr. Shyam Subramanian is the director of the Harris County Hospital District's Sleep Center at LBJ Hospital. He says many adolescents have too many after-school activities and not enough time.

"That includes music or getting your soccer games in and then getting your homework in, going on the internet, watching your favorite tv show and dinner, and then by the time you really have the time to get to bed, it's already way past the time that you're supposed to."

Subramanian says with both adolescents and adults sleeping less and less, the results could be serious health problems in the future.

"If we start young and get these kids habituated to shorter sleep times, it's only going to get worse when they are going to try to balance two jobs and a family and things like that, and I think we are sort of headed down a road where this will pretty much become a vicious cycle. The day may not be far off when we are sleeping no more than five hours a night and suffering the health consequences of that."

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...