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Sleep Sensitivity

How Sleep Helps Set Students Up for Success

Dr. Kannan Ramar

President, American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)

Healthy sleep helps children and teens learn in the classroom, and excel in sports and other extracurricular activities. However, more than half of American parents say their school-aged children or teens are not getting enough sleep, according to a new survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

The survey, which was completed by more than 1,000 parents, brought to light a range of key trends, insights, and impacts surrounding sleep health in school-aged children and teens. The results emphasize that it is vital for parents and caregivers to ensure children and teens develop healthy sleep habits that will last a lifetime. Teachers, coaches, counselors and nurses also can play an essential role in educating students about the importance of sleep.

Key findings

The report found that students do not get enough sleep on school nights. More than half of parents (57 percent) with school-age children say they have a child or teen who does not get enough sleep on school nights. The AASM recommends children 6-12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health, while teenagers 13-18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours per night.

The findings also show there are many barriers modern kids have to getting enough sleep. From classwork to social media use, there are many things competing for the attention of students and interfering with their nightly sleep. Homework and early school start times are the top culprits that impact students’ sleep on school nights, according to 90 percent of parents, followed by time with friends (87 percent), and social media/electronics use (86 percent).

Additionally, COVID-19 is impacting sleep. As schools across the country turn to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest challenges students face is maintaining a consistent and healthy sleep/wake schedule. In fact, 4 out of 10 parents acknowledge that remote learning affected their children’s bedtime and/or waketime consistency last spring.

Overall, people polled agreed sleep has an impact on students’ overall health and well-being. Nine out of 10 parents acknowledge that sleep impacts their children’s mood, and 93 percent understand its correlation to performance in school. Impacts on physical health (92 percent), mental health (90 percent), and performance in sports or other activities (90 percent) are also widely reported by parents.

Key to health

Sleep is one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle, along with nutrition and exercise, and is a crucial component of students’ health and well-being. Students who get the recommended hours of healthy sleep on a regular basis tend to experience better outcomes, including improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. 

It is important to note that healthy sleep also involves appropriate timing, daily regularity, good sleep quality, and the absence of sleep disorders.

Healthy sleep also helps students:

  • Excel in the classroom by maximizing attention, memory, and learning abilities
  • Perform better in sports by being faster, stronger, and more accurate 
  • Feel their best and have a more optimistic attitude toward life
  • Look their best and maintain a healthy weight
  • Have fun and enjoy life by making better decisions and staying safe

In contrast, when children and teens don’t get healthy sleep on a regular basis, it can lead to long-term problems. The potential consequences of chronic, insufficient sleep include behavior and learning problems, an increased risk of health problems such as diabetes and obesity, and more mood and mental health problems.

No matter where classes are held this school year — whether in-person, online or in a hybrid format — it is important that students maintain a consistent sleep schedule to excel in both their studies and extracurricular activities.

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