Newswise — According to a recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), more than half of parents (57%) say their children aren’t getting enough sleep on school nights, and almost a quarter (24%) said that remote learning due to COVID-19 has made their child’s bedtime less consistent.

As families transition to the new school year — whether in-person, online or a hybrid of both — incorporating sleep into the routine is a crucial component for overall health. The AASM is highlighting the importance of healthy sleep for students during the first-ever Student Sleep Health Week, Sept. 14-20, 2020.

“Even though students may not need to catch the bus or carpool this school year, they should continue with morning and bedtime routines, including getting up and going to bed at consistent times so they get enough sleep on a regular basis,” said AASM President Dr. Kannan Ramar.

Sleep’s Impact on Student Health and Well-Being

According to the AASM survey, 94% of parents acknowledge that sleep impacts their children’s mood, and 92% of parents understand sleep’s impact on physical health. Studies show that 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.

To promote optimal health, the AASM recommends that children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours on a regular basis, while teens 13 to 18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours each night. The AASM’s Bedtime Calculator is a helpful tool to identify the appropriate bedtime by age and wake time, available at sleepeducation.org/bedtime.

When children and teens don’t get healthy sleep on a regular basis, it can lead to behavior and learning problems, an increased risk of health problems such as diabetes and obesity, and more mood and mental health problems. For teens, insufficient sleep significantly increases the risk for accidents due to drowsy driving. 

Time Commitments Competing with Sleep

From classwork to social media use and video games, there are many activities, obligations and preferences competing with sleep for the time and attention of children and teens. According to the AASM survey, parents report that early school start times (40%), homework (39%), sports (34%) and social media (33%) have a large impact on the ability of their children to get enough sleep on school nights. Other things that can have a large impact on sleep include hobbies (32%), spending time with friends (29%), chores/jobs (27%), band/music (26%) and clubs (25%).

Healthy Sleep Tips

To help students prioritize sleep, here are some useful tips from the AASM to help families start a healthy sleep routine this school year: 

  • Maintain a consistent, structured sleep schedule. 

While class and activity schedules may transition to a virtual format, students should continue with morning and bedtime routines, including getting up and going to bed at consistent times so they get enough sleep.

  • Develop a relaxing nightly routine.  

Effective bedtime rituals differ for everyone and may include reading, journaling, taking a warm bath or shower. 

  • Restrict screen time before bed.  

86% of parents acknowledge that social media/electronics use impacts their child or teen’s nightly sleep, according to the AASM survey. Screen-based devices should not be allowed in children’s bedrooms and should be turned off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. 

  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime. 

Create a quiet, cool bedroom environment. If necessary, set up a fan or white noise machine to mask sounds from the rest of the household.

No matter what the school year will look like, it is essential that students get the healthy sleep they need to learn, function and grow so they can excel in their classwork and other daily activities.

For more info 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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