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Getting Enough Sleep For School

By Florida Department of Health, Office of Communications

August 15, 2013

For children accustomed to easygoing summer days, it can be difficult to get back to a schedule characterized by early bedtimes and early mornings. Ensuring children get a good breakfast and a balanced meal at lunch time is an important part of their routine, but helping them get enough sleep for school is one of the best ways to help them live happy and healthy this upcoming school year.

An insufficient amount of sleep can affect a child’s academic and social performance, and, in the long term, may lead to unwanted, avoidable chronic illnesses. Sleeping well requires a schedule that is in sync with the child’s biological rhythms. Inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral issues in school, hyperactivity and an inability to fully process new information. It can also affect a child’s growth rate and immune system, both of which are enhanced by good sleeping patterns. Most experts agree:

  • For children between the ages of 7-12, 9 to 12 hours of sleep is best
  • For children between the ages of 12-18, 8 to 9 hours of sleep is recommended

Poor sleeping patterns are linked to:

  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. This is especially important for teens driving to school as drowsiness and falling asleep at the wheel causes more than 100,000 accidents a year.
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information
  • Increased body mass index, meaning a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation.

Unhealthy weight gain is a common outcome of sleep deprivation. When we sleep, our body regulates levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insufficient sleep in children may affect the function of their hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that regulates appetite and the expenditure of energy. That means less sleep will make a child feel they need to eat more to feel full. With childhood obesity posing a major threat to health in Florida, it is important parents take every measure to ensure their child has the best chance of maintaining a healthy weight.

Here’s what you can do to make sure your child is getting all the benefits of a good night’s sleep:

  • Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
  • Continue to emphasize the need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
  • Make your child’s bedroom conducive to sleep by making sure it is dark, cool and quiet.
  • Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine close to bed time.
  • Finish eating at least 2–3 hours before regular bedtime.
  • Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends.
  • Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine they can recognize every night, such as taking a warm bath or reading. This helps children become adjusted to a schedule.

The truth is simple: sleep affects how we feel, think and function. And when kids sleep better, they wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on a brand new school day.

For more tips on how to better your child’s sleeping patterns, and to find out just why sleep is so important, visit the Additional Resources links below.

Additional Resources