How Do Kids Spend Their Time?
Pre-school children spend about half their lives sleeping–averaging
86 hours a week. They spend 11 hours a week eating and put in a 30-hour
“play” week–as they become acclimated to and learn to
manipulate the world in which they live.
For adolescents the time spent sleeping drops rapidly each year–to
less than 60 hours a week for some. Studies show that the time spent eating
also declines during adolescence, although some parents of hungry teens
might question this fact.
[SOURCE: John P. Robinson and Suzanne Bianchi,
“The Children’s Hours: As Children Grow, They Spend Increasingly
Less Time Sleeping and Eating, but More Time on Virtually Everything Else
Life Has To Offer,” American Demographics, December, 1997]
Caring Environment Promotes Sleep
Stress is a major reason for sleep disruption at any age, particularly
during adolescence. A loving, caring environment promotes good sleep while
fear of social rejection can keep us awake at night.
Many theorists see an evolutionary explanation. Unable to sleep safely
in trees or on cliff edges, our ancient ancestors relied heavily on a
close-knit social group for protection against predators during sleep.
The human brain may continue to reflect those tendencies.
[SOURCE: Ronald E. Dahl, “The Consequences
of Insufficient Sleep for Adolescents: Links between Sleep and Emotional
Regulation,” Phi Delta Kappan, January, 1999]
Sleep Loss Affects Kids’ Attention
When 11- and 12-year-old children were restricted to 6.5 hours of sleep
per night for a week, they reacted with inattentiveness, irritability,
noncompliance and sadness, according to a study conducted at Brown University.
The author called on health professionals to “be alert to...the
potential impact that chronic periods of inadequate sleep can have on
behavior and mood.
[SOURCE: Doug Brunk, “Sleep Restriction
May Cause Attention Problems,” Family Practice News, November 1,
Under the Influence of Drowsiness
Drowsy drivers account for about 100,000 automobile accidents each year,
according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These
are typically single-vehicle crashes, occurring at night and usually as
severe as those involving alcohol.
A Canadian study using a computer-based driving simulator determined that
sleepiness resulted in significant impairment of driving ability, similar
to that caused by alcohol.
[SOURCE: “Sleep Needs, Patterns, and Difficulties
of Adolescents,” workshop September 22, 1999; Susan Flagg Godbey,
Yun Lee Wolfe and Colin Beavan, “The Daze After: sleepless Nights
Have Spinout Effects,” Prevention, January, 1997]
U.S. Youth Most Likely To Use Drugs
European youth are more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcoholic
beverages, but American adolescents have a much higher rate of illicit
drug use, according to a 1999 survey of more than 100,000 10th grade students
in the United States and 30 European countries.
Of 14,000 American youth surveyed, 41 percent said they had tried marijuana
and 23 percent had used other illegal drugs. Among European students,
marijuana use was 17 percent and other drug use only 6 percent. Even in
the Netherlands, where many drugs are legal, only 28 percent of subjects
had used marijuana.
About 37 percent of the European students had smoked a cigarette in the
past 30 days (compared to 26 percent of Americans) and 61 percent had
consumed alcohol (compared to 40 percent of Americans).
[SOURCE: Kate Zernike, “Study Finds Teenage
Drug Use Higher in U.S. than in Europe, New York Times Health, February
Does Your Baby Have Perfect Pitch?
Perfect pitch, which allows a person to identify a single musical note
without comparing it to another, may be a trait possessed not just by
the musically gifted but by all newborns. A study conducted at the Infant
Learning Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin concluded that perfect
pitch, but not relative pitch, appears to be a basic skill possessed by
virtually all infants right after birth.
The author theorized that perfect pitch may be necessary to help a child
“map” the world of sound but that this skill becomes less
useful than relative pitch over time. Without relative pitch a person
is unable to recognize the same song sung in a different key.
[SOURCE: Eric Nagourney, “When Your Infant
Is a Musical Genius,” New York Times Health, February 27, 2001]
Skipping a Nap Can Be Dangerous
Letting a toddler skip a nap or stay up later can be dangerous, according
to an Italian study of 292 patients treated at a children’s emergency
center. Serious accidents most commonly occurred from 4 p.m. to midnight,
and toddlers who had been awake all day were four times more likely to
be injured as those who had napped. Overall, children who slept less than
10 hours a day had twice as many accidents as other children.
[SOURCE: John O’Neil, “Sleepy Boys
and Double Trouble,” New York Times Health, February 20, 2001]
Kids Exposed to Violence at Risk
Children and adolescents exposed to violence–in the community, at
home or even on television–generally have a high rate of depression
and thoughts of suicide. As for community violence (the witnessing of
drive-by shootings or other violence on the street), a recent study found
that depression and thoughts of suicide seemed to be indirect rather than
direct effects, varying with the degree to which the individual showed
symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
One survey indicated that 88 percent of inner city adolescents reported
being exposed to some incident of street violence.
[SOURCE: James J. Mazza and William M. Reynolds,
“Exposure to Violence in Young Inner-City Adolescents: Relationships
with Suicidal Ideation, Depression, and PTSD Symptomatology,” Journal
of Abnormal Child Psychology, June, 1999]
Does Depression Lead to Teen Smoking?
Adolescents diagnosed with depression are frequently cigarette smokers
and some authorities have theorized that heavy cigarette use is a result
of symptoms of depression. A recent controlled study, however, found no
evidence that symptoms of depression brought about heavy smoking. Rather,
“previous experimentation with smoking was the strongest predictor
of becoming a heavy smoker.”
[SOURCE: Alice T.D. Hughes, Elizabeth Goodman
and John Capitman, “Depressive Symptoms and Cigarette Smoking among
Teens,” JAMA, December 20, 2000]
New Sleep Position Increase SIDS Risk
Before it was known that babies sleeping on their stomachs have an increased
risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), numerous parents put their
children to bed in that position. Grandparents resistant to change should
realize, however, that babies used to sleeping on their backs are particularly
vulnerable if placed on their stomachs even occasionally.
In one study, babies routinely placed on their stomachs were five times
more likely to die of SIDS. For those used to sleeping on their backs,
the risk of death when placed on their stomachs was 20 times higher compared
to babies sleeping on their backs.
[SOURCE: Edwin A. Mitchell, Bradley T. Thach,
John M.D. Thompson and Sheila Williams, “Changing Infants’
Sleep Position Increases Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,”
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, November, 1999]
Sleep Position Means Fewer Deaths
When the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical authorities
around the world recommended that parents put their babies to sleep on
their backs rather than their stomachs to prevent sudden infant death
syndrome (SIDS), Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare delayed
until studies could be conducted in that country.
As the death rate from SIDS fell around the world, the rate in Japan
remained high. Six years later, based on Japanese studies showing that
more babies die if they sleep on their stomachs, Japan accepted the new
[SOURCE: “Japan’s Study of Cot Deaths,”
Pediatrics, June, 1999]
Co-Sleeping Puts Babies at Risk
Many infants under the age of three months die each year when they share
sleeping, often on a couch, with a parent and sometimes other children.
Alcohol is often involved, and the adult may have rolled over on the baby,
squashed it against the back of the couch or accidentally smothered it
with bed clothes.
[SOURCE: Paul Davison and Adrian Midgley, “Babies
Sleeping with Parents and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” British
Medical Journal, October 21, 2000]
Do Implants Prevent Breast Feeding?
Women who have had breast implants or breast reduction surgery are often
able to lactate and breast feed their babies, depending on the location
of the surgical incision. The Food and Drug Administration has also ruled
that silicone implants do not pose a danger for the baby.
An incision that goes around the entire circumference of the nipple may
disrupt the milk ducts and the nerves to the nipple that are necessary
[SOURCE: “Offering Effective Breast-feeding
Advice,” Contemporary OB/GYN, August, 2000]
Breast Feeding May Prevent Hypertension
Babies who are breast fed may have a lower risk of high blood pressure
later in life, according to a study published in the British medical journal,
Lancet [February 10, 2001]. A study of pre-term babies fed either formula
or milk from a human donor showed that those drinking human milk had lower
mean arterial blood pressure and lower diastolic blood pressure as teenagers.
The fat and sodium content of the milk was not found to be a factor.
[SOURCE: Susan B. Roberts, “Prevention
of Hypertension in Adulthood by Breast-feeding?” The Lancet, February