WASHINGTON — To wake parents up to the importance of snoozing, sleep experts warned Tuesday that seemingly energetic children who dodge bedtime for other activities are more prone to injury, poor school performance and crankiness.
"A tired child is an accident waiting to happen," said Dr. Carl Hunt, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health.
Many children with chronic sleep deprivation may not seem tired and may even appear to be overactive.
Hunt said injuries on bicycles and on playground equipment are more likely to occur when a child is sleep-deprived, and if poor sleeping habits continue as kids grow older "the stakes get higher."
"It turns into the teenager who is drowsy and driving a car," he said.
Research shows that bad sleep habits for children can carry over into poor health for adults -- causing heart ailments, respiratory problems and obesity, said Dr. Claude Lenfant, director of the NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Children ages 7 to 11 require at least nine hours of sleep each night on a regular basis to do their best in school and extracurricular activities, the NIH said.
The NIH estimates that more than 70 million Americans of every age are sleep-deprived.
Besides increased extracurricular activities and homework, things that are getting in the way of a good night's sleep for a child are television, the Internet, cell phones and e-mail -- with many of those distractions located in bedrooms.
"These give children lots of opportunity to do other things besides sleep," Hunt said.
On Tuesday, the NIH announced three winners of its "How I Get a Heap of Sleep" contest in which children described their tactics for getting nine hours of sleep each night.
Danielle Wodka, 7, of Lemont, Ill., said she took a warm bath and said her prayers.
Amanda Davol of Somerset, Mass., and Qian Wang of Fort Thomas, Ky., said they listened to soothing music or read a book to lull them into sleep.