Imran Shaikh, MD is a sleep medicine specialist. He recently completed his fellowship in sleep medicine at Rush University Medical Center.
Sleep is an essential ingredient for student success. Therefore, it's important for families to incorporate healthy sleep into their daily routines.
Why Don't Kids Get Enough Sleep?
According to a survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), 57% of parents say their school-age children are not getting enough sleep on school nights. What's to blame?
Ninety percent of parents say that homework and early school start times impact students’ ability to get enough sleep, followed by:
- time with friends (87%)
- social media/electronics use (86%)
- hobbies (86%)
- sports (85%)
- chores/job (83%)
- band/music/clubs (78%)
The benefits of healthy sleep require not only adequate sleep duration, but also appropriate timing, daily regularity, good sleep quality and the absence of sleep disorders. Below are some helpful tips to help students improve their sleep so they are well-rested and can tackle their schoolwork and other activities.
1. Set a Bedtime to Prioritize Sleep
For optimal health, daytime alertness and school performance, the AASM recommends that children 6–12 years of age sleep nine to 12 hours each night, and teenagers 13–18 years of age sleep eight to 10 hours each night. Getting the proper amount of sleep is key for students to prepare for academic success and improve personal health and well-being.
In addition, 94% of parents acknowledge that sleep affects their children’s mood, followed by performance in school (93%), physical health (92%), mental health (90%) and performance in sports or other activities (90%).
I encourage families to utilize the AASM’s Bedtime Calculator to identify the appropriate bedtime by age and wake time.
Why It's Important to Get Enough Sleep
Things that are learned during the school day are absorbed and retained more efficiently when the recommended hours of sleep are achieved. When students are well-rested, they are more likely to get better grades in school and have a positive attitude toward life. Plus, they enjoy improved attention, emotional regulation, quality of life and physical health. A tired student is more prone to attention, behavioral and learning challenges.
Helping children understand that sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle is important for their future, as poor sleep can increase the risk of physical health problems throughout a child’s life. These include obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
2. Improve Nighttime Routines
Healthy sleep habits and a consistent routine can help students get the amount of sleep needed. Some bedtime tips include:
- Create a relaxing bedroom: Make the bedroom a dark, cool and peaceful place. Add window coverings dark enough to block out early morning or later evening light. If necessary, set up a fan or white noise machine to mask sounds from the rest of the household.
- Avoid electronics: It’s important to avoid electronics before bedtime and especially while in bed – the bright light emitted by electronic devices can signal to the body that it should be awake and alert.
- Develop a relaxing nightly routine: Consider adding reading, journaling or taking a warm bath or shower to your nightly routine. This will help students wind down from a long school day and prepare them for a good night’s sleep!
3. Maintain a Sleep Schedule During Remote Learning
Due to COVID-19, many schools and students are utilizing remote learning or a hybrid schedule. Four out of 10 parents say that remote learning due to COVID-19 affects their school-age children’s waketime and bedtime consistency. For students that don’t have to catch a bus or carpool at a certain time, it may be difficult to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. But keeping to regular bedtimes and waketimes during remote learning is essential so children get the healthy sleep they need to learn, function and grow.
We Can All Help Children Develop Healthy Sleep Habits
Parents, students and educators—including teachers, school administrators, counselors, nurses, physical educators and more—can help to encourage healthy sleep habits for students to excel both in the classroom and out. We all play a key role in ensuring all students have the opportunity to get enough sleep and develop healthy sleep habits that will last a lifetime.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.