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For Parents: Insure Students Get Adequate Sleep
March 9 – 15 is National Sleep Awareness Week

     It is good that there is a special week to recognize how important sleep is to a healthy and happy life. But we really need to be aware of this the other 51 weeks in the year, too.

     Children’s health, quality of life, and ability to function well in school will be negatively impacted if they do not get their sleep requirements met on a regular basis. Statistics show that children who do not sleep enough are more apt to perform poorly or below their potential at school, to injure themselves, to have trouble controlling their emotions, to make poor decisions, or to simply not feel good or be happy.

     Sleep researchers say that it is important to understand that people cannot “get used” to doing with too little sleep. Rather than adjusting, the body simply becomes more and more sleep-deprived. People who do not get enough sleep should begin to look at making whatever changes are necessary to sleeping more rather than trying to adjust to doing without. Sleep is not time wasted – it’s time well spent to maintain good health and quality of life.

     An adequate amount of sleep is different for children of different ages. Children in pre-kindergarten through first-or second-grade need about 11 or 12 hours of sleep per night. Those in the upper elementary grades need a good 10 hours per night. Middle school students need at least eight and a half to nine and a half hours per night and high school students need a minimum of eight to nine hours of sleep per night.

Here are some things to keep in mind in helping children form and maintain good sleep behaviors:

  • Stick to a regular bedtime and a regular getting up time in the morning. Making a lot of exceptions to the sleep schedule it detrimental to the child’s ability to become rested and to perform well in school.
  • Provide an environment that is sleep-friendly. Our ability to sleep is affected by a combination of complex biological and behavioral factors that include the lowering of body temperature and reactions to light and sound. Make the sleeping room one that is dark, cool, quiet, and free from intrusions during the time set aside for sleep.
  • Maintain healthy routines for meals, study, recreation, entertainment, and family time to form a good sleep schedule. Children need routines set by the parent.
  • Avoid stimulating activities shortly before bedtime. That includes television, using the computer, video games, and listening to stimulating music. It’s good to for children to engage in quiet activities such as reading, listening to soothing music, or taking a relaxing, warm bath shortly before bedtime.
  • Do not discuss stressful subjects or try to deal with difficult issues close to bed time. That should be done earlier in the day.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, colas and certain other soft drinks, and chocolate at night. Beware of Mountain Dew – though not a cola, it is loaded with caffeine.
  • Show you care. When young children have trouble sleeping or experience nightmares, it is good to reassure them. Hugs and soothing words from a parent can do a lot of good. But do not take the child to the parents’ bed or give the child treats to sooth him or her. This sort of behavior tends to “reward” the problem and form habits that are difficult to break.
    

 

                   The gift of healthy, restoring sleep is priceless. If your child is having trouble with sleep or any other aspect of health, talk to his or her school nurse or the healthcare provider of your choice. Also, for more information about sleep, visit www.sleepfoundation.org.