Infants and toddlers in Japan have shorter sleeping hours than those in the United States, Europe and other parts of Asia, a sleep psychologist said Wednesday.

Children in Japan who are 3 or younger sleep for an average of 11 hours and 37 minutes, while those elsewhere in Asia average 12 hours and 16 minutes and tots in the United States, Europe and South America get 13 hours, said Jodi Mindell, psychology professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, at a news conference in Tokyo.

“When you are children, how much sleep you get is the most important thing,” Mindell said.

Children with insufficient sleep wake in a bad mood and suffer poor memory and attention spans, Mindell said.

Even so, she said the percentage of Japanese parents who feel their children have sleeping problems is one of the lowest among the 17 countries polled by the Asia Pacific Pediatric Sleep Alliance, which she heads. The poll was conducted in 2007.

To ensure children get enough sleep, parents should stick to consistent sleeping schedules and bedtime routines, including baths, massages and reading stories — and try to teach babies to sleep alone, she said. The survey reveals children who sleep with their parents in the same bed or room tend to wake at night more often, she said.

But the survey fails to examine the correlation between the time a working parent gets home with how long kids sleep.

Dr. Jun Koyama, who says children should get into the habit of going to bed and waking up early, told the news conference there is a definite correlation.

He said he has heard of many cases in which children get too excited to sleep when a parent comes home and end up staying up late.

“Parents’ working style must be taken into consideration,” he said.

However, in the U.S., Mindell said differences in lifestyle, such as TV and video game time, are stronger factors in why children stay up late.

The APPSA surveyed 872 people with children up to 3 years old in Japan, 21,327 in Asia including Japan, and 7,960 in the U.S. and some European and Latin American countries.

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