School Children Must Go To Bed Earlier to Get Sufficient Sleep

SCHOOL CHILDREN MUST GO TO BED EARLIER TO GET SUFFICIENT SLEEP
SAYS NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION AND ROCKY MOUNTAIN SLEEP DISORDER CENTER 

New NSF Poll Finds Late Bedtime, Early Awakenings for School, 

Contribute to Sleep Deprivation, Poor School Behavior, Fewer Activities

-- As school bells begin ringing again around the country, many preschoolers and school-aged children will be leaving their homes for school or pre-school when they probably should still be sleeping, says the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

According to NSF’s 2004 Sleep in America poll, on average, school-aged children ages 10 and under, start off for school just after 7:30 a.m., while pre-schoolers depart a little later, just after 8:00 a.m.  However, the poll also finds that about one quarter of school aged children leave for school before   7:30 a.m and one in seven pre-schoolers (15%) leave their homes that early for before-school care.

The 2004 Sleep in America poll looks at the sleep habits of children – newborns to 10 year olds – and their primary caregivers.  Poll data released earlier this year found that preschoolers (3-5 year-olds and six year-olds in kindergarten) sleep about 10.4 hours a night, while experts recommend 11-13 hours.  School-aged children (1st – 5th graders) average 9.5 hours of sleep a night, less than the recommended 10-11 hours for this age group. These new data look at how sleep impacts children in their school setting.

“A key finding in the poll is that children sleep less than experts recommend.  One of the reasons why they are not getting enough sleep is becoming clear -- children are simply going to bed too late for the time they must awaken in the morning,” says Jodi Mindell, PhD, an NSF director and chair of the 2004 poll task force.  Dr. Mindell is associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The poll finds an association between the number of hours children sleep and their behavior in school. Children who sleep less are twice as likely to have the school call their parents/guardians about behavior problems than those who sleep more (17% vs. 8%).  In addition, the poll shows that the more children sleep, the more likely they are to participate in activities outside the school setting such as scouts, sports, music lessons, etc. either after school or on weekends.

“Sleep is an irreplaceable resource for a child’s health and overall development,” says Richard L. Gelula, NSF’s chief executive officer.  “When children get sufficient sleep, it enhances their ability to not only participate in, but to enjoy and even excel in academic, extracurricular and community activities.”

While children may need to get up in the early hours of the morning to get ready for school, the poll findings seem to indicate that they are responding to their alarm clocks, parental nudging, or a combination of these and other wake-up methods.  Most parents interviewed said their child has never been late for school or missed school because he/she overslept or was too tired.

“As the new school year approaches, parents and their children must make many adjustments to daily routines and schedules. This is the perfect time to commit to making sufficient sleep a part of every family member’s regular schedule,  “Remember, sleep is a healthy choice.”

To help parents/caregivers and children plan a back to school sleep schedule, NSF and RMSDC offer the following eight tips that should be maintained throughout the school year:

  • Begin the routine early.  Parents/caregivers should start their child’s school sleep routine at least one or two weeks before the first day of school by introducing a gradual change in their child’s sleep schedule, such as going to bed 15-30 minutes earlier each night. This can make it easier for children to adjust their sleeping patterns to meet the new school schedule.

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

    • Embrace good sleep habits that include bedtime routines.  Regular bedtime routines should include at least 15-30 minutes of relaxing, quiet activities immediately prior to bedtime. A quiet and comfortable bedroom, and appropriate bedtimes and wake times can go a long way to better sleep. Televisions and computers need to be out of the bedroom; caffeine (found in beverages, chocolate and other products) should not be part of a child's diet.

  • Achieve a balanced schedule. Identify and prioritize activities that allow for downtime and sufficient sleep time. Help students avoid an overloaded schedule that can lead to stress and difficulty coping, which contribute to poor health and sleep problems.

    • Learn to recognize sleep problems. The most common sleep problems in children include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, having trouble breathing, and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping.  These sleep problems can be evident in daytime behavior such as being overtired, sleepy or cranky.

  • Talk to your child's doctor about sleep. Parents/caregivers should discuss their child's sleep habits and problems with their child's doctor, as most sleep problems are easily treated.  Healthcare professionals must regularly ask about a child's sleep.

  • Be a role model. Parents and other caregivers can be role models for school-aged children by establishing their own regular sleep schedule and a home environment conducive to healthy sleep habits.

  • Become a sleep advocate.  Take steps to encourage scheduling of events to help children keep their sleep schedules.   Also, encourage schools to include sleep in health and science curriculums to help students better understand the importance of sleep to their overall health, safety, and quality of their lives.

A Summary of Findings of the 2004 Sleep in America poll as well as information about sleep for people of all ages can be found on NSF’s Web site, www.sleepfoundation.org

Methodology

WB&A Market Research conducted the 2004 Sleep in America poll for NSF using telephone interviews with a targeted random sample of 1,473 adults who were a primary caregiver or share equally in the care of a child 10 years of age or younger living in the household.  The interviews were conducted between September 15 and October 17, 2003.  Additional poll data were released last March 30 during NSF’s annual National Sleep Awareness Week® campaign.

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.

Rocky Mountain Sleep Disorder Center is a member of the National Sleep Foundation, working with the Foundation as a Community Sleep Awareness Partner® to help educate the public about the importance of sleep.
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