From Zzzs to As: Healthy Sleep is KEY For
As the new school year approaches, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) encourages parents and kids to put healthy sleep on the list of back-to-school necessities. NSF recommends gradually adjusting sleep schedules now (two weeks prior to the start of school) in order to be alert and energized as well as to assure optimal learning, participation and health.
“Kids tend to sleep and wake up later during the summer, making the transition to the school-year sleep schedule difficult,” explains NSF CEO Richard Gelula. “As tempting as it is to enjoy sleeping late in the final days of summer break, getting up earlier for school will be much easier if kids begin adjusting their sleep schedules now.”
All children – even adolescents – need more sleep than adults. According to NSF’s 2004 and 2006 Sleep in America polls, which focused on children aged 0-10 and 11-17 respectively, most kids in the U.S. do not get the amount of sleep experts recommend. Optimal sleep is essential to children’s health, safety and academic performance and kids who do not sleep well are more likely to have behavioral problems and face academic challenges.
“Adequate sleep is just as important to kids’ health and well-being as diet and exercise,” says Daniel Lewin, PhD, director of the Pediatric Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. “Inadequate sleep can lead to attention and mood problems in children. Adequate sleep also facilitates learning and improves memory, both vital to improving academic performance as well as optimizing participation in social and athletic activities.”
Parents may also find themselves unprepared for the sleep challenges that the new school year brings. Many need to wake up earlier in order to pack lunches, drive their kids to school or help them get to the bus stop on time. This is particularly true of mothers, many of whom are already sleep-deprived.
NSF recommends these sleep tips to help parents:
- Gradually adjust to earlier sleep and wake schedules ten days to two weeks before school begins. This will set biological clocks to the new schedule.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule, and avoid extremes on weekends. Having a regular bedtime increases the likelihood that kids – including teens – will get optimal sleep.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Reading before bed is a good choice for kids of all ages and for parents.
- Create a sleep environment that is cool, quiet, dimly lit and comfortable.
- Keep television, video games and other electronics out of the bedroom. NSF’s 2006 Sleep in America poll revealed that having electronic devices in the bedroom is associated with an increased risk of falling asleep in class and while doing homework. Eliminate exposure to electronic media (television, video and computer games etc.) within an hour of bedtime.
- Limit caffeine, especially after lunchtime.
- Eat well and exercise.
NSF’s 2006 poll also showed an awareness gap between kids and their parents. While more than half of adolescents reported not getting the sleep they need, 90% percent of parents felt that their adolescent was getting enough sleep. Parents should talk to their children about their sleep and seek help for any sleep problems that may arise.
Here are more sleep-smart pointers from NSF for parents:
- Be an example. If you practice good sleep habits, your kids are less likely to adopt bad one
- Talk to your kids about the importance of healthy sleep
- Recognize that children – including teens – need more sleep than adults.
- Children who have difficulty waking in the morning on more than three days a week or who snore may not be getting adequate or should be evaluated by a specialist.
- Establish a one-hour “electronic-free” time before bedtime.
- Ask teachers whether your child is alert or sleepy during class and take steps to improve your child’s sleep if you feel that he or she may have a sleep problem.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving greater understanding of sleep and sleep disorders. For more information The National Sleep Foundation