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More Rest is Best

Catching some zzz's, getting some shuteye, forty winks…regardless of what you call it, sleep is an indispensable factor to a child’s overall health and wellbeing. The problem?  According to the CDC, almost 60% of middle school students and over 70% of high school students are getting significantly less than the recommended amount of sleep.  Why is sleep so important and why aren’t kids getting enough of it?  How can school nurses improve the sleep habits of their students?  Let’s explore.

Why is sleep important?

Time and again, studies have shown that optimal sleep duration has been directly connected to improved health outcomes across psychological, social, emotional, cognitive, and physical health domains. A student who sleeps well has an increased capacity for learning, demonstrates better concentration and fewer behavioral concerns, and achieves greater academic success. What’s more is that good sleep can also foster resilience, enhance athletic performance, and boost self-esteem.  Not getting sufficient sleep, on the other hand, is associated with a higher prevalence of health problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes, poor mental health, and injuries.

What’s considered “enough” sleep?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:

Preschoolers 3–5 years 10 to 13 hours including naps
Grade schoolers 6–12 years 9 to 12 hours
Teens 13-18 years 8 to 10 hours

Why aren’t kids getting enough sleep?

Sleep deprivation has been linked to both physiological factors including sleep-disordered breathing, sleep apnea, poorly controlled asthma, high BMI, and restless leg syndrome; and behavioral, or psychiatric factors such as stress, anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, and effects from PTSD or other trauma.  More recent studies suggest increased screen time and less physical activity also play a role in sleep deprivation in children.

What can schools do to help kids get more sleep?

Schools can make a significant impact in improving the sleep habits of students in two ways.  The first is through the implementation of a sleep education program into the curriculum.  By providing lessons in sleep patterns, healthy sleep environments, and various sleep disorders to students, as well as parents and families, schools can reinforce the importance of sleep and promote good sleep habits.  The second means by which schools can make a difference is by careful review and consideration of school start times. Since 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended middle and high schools delay their start times to no earlier than 8:30 AM.  Working with their administration, parent community, and local school boards, school nurses can be integral advocates for helping kids and adolescents get the sleep they need.

Simply put: there's no way to be successful in school unless students are getting good sleep and enough of it and schools can make a difference by educating their communities and advocating for healthy policies that encourage and protect their students' sleep.

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