One Key to a Successful School Year: More Sleep

Student Sleep Health Week is a Perfect Time to Reset Sleep Habits

One Key to a Successful School Year: More Sleep
Sept. 14-20 is Student Sleep Health Week

In addition to buying school supplies, getting the latest fashions and prepping for new classes, there is one more back-to-school essential that families must observe: resetting their sleep routines. After remote learning this spring and the lazy days of summer, many kids have gotten accustomed to staying up and getting up late. As families implement their schedules for the school year, incorporating a healthy, consistent sleep schedule is an important component.

September 14-20 is Student Sleep Health Week, which is the perfect time to highlight why students need sleep, how much they need each night and the healthy habits to help students excel.

Why do students need sleep?

Sleep is essential for optimal health in children and teens. Healthy sleep is associated with improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. According to a recent survey* conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), 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%). Despite parents recognizing sleep’s impact, more than half of parents (57%) say their children do not get enough sleep on school nights.

How much sleep do students need?

The AASM recommends different sleep durations based on age:

• Children 6-12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis. It is important to promote healthy sleep habits in early childhood, as these are critical years of growth and early development. Children who sleep well are healthier and happier, and they are more alert and ready to learn in the classroom.

• Teenagers 13-18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis. Teens are still growing and developing, and sleep is a crucial part of these processes. Sleep also helps restore energy to the brain and body.

Families can use the AASM’s Bedtime Calculator to identify the appropriate bedtime by age and wake time, available at sleepeducation.org/bedtime.

What’s keeping students from getting enough sleep?

There are many reasons children and teens are not getting enough sleep on school nights – from extracurricular activities and sports to after-school jobs and electronics use. In the same AASM survey, 90% of parents say that homework and early school start times are the top culprits impacting students’ sleep on school nights, along with spending time with friends (87%), social media/electronics use (86%), hobbies (86%), sports (85%), chores or jobs (83%), and band/music/clubs (78%).

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted sleep for many families. According to the AASM, more than a third of parents say that the switch to online/remote learning has affected their children’s nightly amount of sleep, and four out of 10 parents acknowledge that remote learning has impacted their children’s waketime and bedtime consistency.

There are many things that factor into what is considered healthy sleep, which is why it’s so important you help guide your children to prioritize sleep.

How can students sleep better on school nights?

One of the best things families can do for their children’s/teen’s health and well-being is to encourage routines that will help them get enough sleep, including:

• Create a quiet, cool sleep environment.

• Develop a relaxing nightly routine, which may include reading, journaling or taking a warm bath or shower.

• Restrict screen time before bed.

• Only use the bed for sleeping, not watching TV or listening to music.

• Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, including getting up and going to bed at regular times each day of the week, including weekends and vacations.

While the school year may look different this year, ensuring students incorporate healthy sleep into their daily routines will set them up for success in school and extra-curricular activities.

For more information about Student Sleep Health Week, please visit http://sleepeducation.org/student-sleep-health-week.

*To access the AASM 2020 survey, please visit https://aasm.org/about/newsroom/.

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Virginia Skiba, MD
Virginia Skiba, MD
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Virginia Skiba, MD

Dr. Skiba is a Sleep Medicine Specialist at Henry Ford Sleep Disorders and Research Center. She has served on several American Academy of Sleep Medicine committees, and she is the current President of the Michigan Academy of Sleep Medicine.

See all posts by Virginia Skiba, MD