National Sleep Foundation Launches “Sleep For Kids” Web Site

Rocky Mountain Sleep Disorders Center joins NSF to help children, parents and others learn about sleep and discuss sleep problems

Children who want to learn about sleep and healthy sleep habits now have a new Internet resource just for them from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), the nation’s foremost sleep awareness organization. The SleepforKids.org Web site, www.SleepforKids.org, will help children ages 7 and up explore the importance of sleep and share important information about a child’s sleep habits and sleep problems.

“Our 2004 Sleep in America poll shows that too many children aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep they need, and more than two-thirds of them experience sleep problems at least a few nights a week,” says Richard Gelula, NSF’s chief executive officer. “SleepforKids.org talks directly to children and provides age-appropriate tools to promote the necessity of making healthy sleep a daily priority. We hope that children will have a fun educational experience on our site that keeps them coming back to learn new ways to get a refreshing night’s sleep.”

“P.J. Bear,” NSF’s sleep ambassador, guides children through SleepforKids.org as they read about how sleep works, productive sleep habits, sleep disorders, and dreams. “P.J. Bear” made his debut in Time to Sleep with P.J. Bear, a colorful 16-page comic book-style activity booklet that was created as part of a partnership between NSF and the Federal Railroad Administration and can be ordered free from the site.

SleepforKids.org includes educational games and activities, as well as a downloadable copy of NSF’s new Sleep Diary designed especially for children. The Sleep Diary allows children to record the number of caffeinated beverages they drink, how well they slept, hours of sleep and in-school attentiveness each day for one week. The site also features a page for parents and teachers where they can access more detailed information on children’s sleep habits and problems, and the possible connections between sleep problems and other health issues such as obesity and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“We hope that parents will take the time to look at SleepforKids.org, so that they can talk to their children about what they learn on our site and can act as good sleep role models,” adds Gelula. “We’re also encouraging teachers to make use of SleepforKids.org in their classrooms to help ensure that all students get sufficient, high quality sleep to be attentive throughout the school day.”

“Children need to understand the value of sleep, whether they have sleep problems or not, so that they can learn and maintain good sleep hygiene through adolescence and into adulthood,” says RMSDC. “By making this educational resource available online, children, families and educators can access sleep information and fun sleep activities whenever and wherever it best suits them.” Rocky Mountain Sleep Disorders Center is a Community Sleep Awareness Partner, working with NSF throughout the year to increase public understanding about the importance of sleep.

Noted sleep experts Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., associate director, Pediatric Sleep Disorders Program, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington DC, and Judith Owens, M.D., MPH, director, Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Providence, worked with NSF and reviewed SleepforKids.org’s site content.

Parents/caregivers and classroom teachers will find SleepforKids.org a useful tool to help children understand the importance of sleep and establish good sleep habits. The site can be the catalyst in helping parents/caregivers establish sleep-smart homes for the entire family. Other steps that parents/caregivers can take:

  • Make sufficient sleep a family priority. Parents/caregivers need to determine the amount of sleep each family member needs and take steps to ensure their individual needs are met. Every family member must make a good night's sleep a regular part of his/her daily schedule.

  • Establish bedtime rituals. SleepforKids.org provides several tips for better sleep, such as regular bedtime routines that include 15-30 minutes of relaxing activities before bedtime. Televisions and computers should be turned off during this time and should not be permitted in a child’s bedroom.

  • Avoid over-scheduling children. Parents need to assess how much time their children spend in extracurricular activities and how it affects their sleep patterns. If necessary, parents can work with their children to adjust their schedules to allow for enough sleep.

  • Learn to recognize sleep problems and signs of sleep deprivation. These signals are not always obvious and can include: difficulty waking in the morning, irritability late in the day, and sleeping for extra long periods on the weekend. Problems at school such as difficulty learning, poor grades or not completing homework can be caused by poor concentration, a symptom of sleep deprivation.

  • Keep a sleep diary with your child. The Sleep Diary on SleepforKids.org provides timely information on children’s poor sleep habits and can be used to measure the effectiveness of efforts to change them. Parents/caregivers are encouraged to also keep their own sleep diary as part of being a good role model, better demonstrating to children the value of making sleep a high priority. A sleep diary for adults can be found on NSF’s Web site, www.sleepfoundation.org.

  • Become a sleep advocate. Encourage schools to include sleep education in school curricula.

Teachers are likewise encouraged to include sleep education into their curricula and use SleepforKids.org as part of students’ lessons about health and positive healthy behaviors. Here are some other suggestions:

  • Assign the children’s Sleep Diary as homework. The site’s Sleep Diary would make an ideal two-week homework assignment on sleep, with children comparing the amount they sleep to how they feel the next day in class.

  • Lead a classroom discussion on caffeine. Ask children which caffeinated foods and beverages they consume close to bedtime. They can find out how much caffeine they consume by using the Caffeine Calculator located on NSF’s Web site, www.sleepfoundation.org.

  • Hold a classroom contest to create a sleep slogan. Have students create a sleep slogan on a poster to emphasize the importance of sleep. Completed posters could be hung in class for the students to vote on to see which one they like best. The winning posters could be hung outside in the school hallways for others to see or sleep-related prizes, such as teddy bears or night-lights, could be given to the winners.

Additional suggestions for teachers on how to teach students about sleep can be found in the activity guide book for the Time to Sleep with P.J. Bear booklet, which can be downloaded free from SleepforKids.org.

The National Sleep Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and by supporting education, sleep-related research, and advocacy. NSF is based in Washington, DC. For more information, visit www.sleepfoundation.org.

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