STUDENTS FEEL HELPLESS: WHY SLEEP GETS AN ‘F’
“I have a student that was a fourth grader last year who was continuously disrespectful in class and did not care about doing any work. He would often sit and put his head down. Discipline did not seem to help. One day he was spending his recess with me as a consequence, and I started to ask him about his life. I somehow stumbled upon the question, ‘What time do you go to bed?’ And he replied, ‘I don’t have a bedtime. My dad doesn’t care when I go to sleep.’ We began to discover that he was putting his head down because he was so sleepy during the day and he was acting out because he was tried. We made a point to convey the importance of sleep to him and his dad. Now, as a fifth grader, he is a completely different person. Happy, participating, respectful, and absolutely no trouble at all. What a world of difference a good night’s sleep makes,” said elementary school music teacher, Matthew Todd.
WHY IS SLEEP IMPORTANT FOR KIDS?
Sleep is for the 16 hours you’re awake, not just the 8 hours you’re asleep. This is true for adults, and especially true for kids during developmental school years. Like nutrition and physical activity, adequate sleep is vital to students’ health and well-being, and essential to learning.
According to new research* from GENYOUth and Sleep Number, nearly 3 out of 4 high schoolers, and 2 out of 3 middle-schoolers aren’t getting the amount of sleep their minds and bodies need. This is a huge issue because sleep is at the center of everything. Think about when you’re tired. Your memory suffers and you don’t think as clearly, quickly, or creatively. Your emotional state is more sensitive to outbursts, less patient, and less understanding of yourself/others. Your physical body lacks motivation, moves slower, and craves junk food.
Children and adolescents who don’t get enough sleep are at increased risk for obesity, diabetes, injuries, poor mental health, and attention and behavior problems, which can affect them academically. The Sleep Foundation notes that sleep “can even help [students] to eat better and manage the stress of being a teen. Sleep’s benefits go on and on…
WHY AREN’T KIDS SLEEPING MORE?
Surprisingly, the root causes of not getting enough sleep aren’t because of technology or choosing to stay up later. The majority of students (42%) say their lack of sleep is mostly due to things they “have to do.” On average, students put in an 11.5-hour “work day” for school, school-related activities, and homework—before doing any household chores or other responsibilities. This leaves about 8.75 hours as the best-case scenario of time between lights out and getting out the door in the morning. This makes it almost mathematically impossible for students (at least those who do not fall asleep immediately at night and/or who wash, dress, and have breakfast in the morning) to get the 8 hours or more of sleep they need.
The biggest sleep barriers, and thus the best solutions, center on helping students cope with their “have to do’s.” Students cite later school start times, reducing homework volume, and having more time to do homework during the school day as top solutions that would help them get more sleep.
Mom of three and lawyer Carolynne Burkholder James can relate. “I notice a huge change in my kids’ behavior when they don’t get enough sleep. They are usually such easy-going, happy-go-lucky children, but if they are sleep deprived they turn into the whiniest and grumpiest kids. I’m not strict about many things, but I’m a stickler for early bedtimes.”
HOW IS SLEEP NUMBER HELPING KIDS?
Fifty-one percent of sleep-deprived students say they have tried many different things to get more sleep, but they almost always end up failing. However, 66% of students say they wish there was a fix that would help them get more sleep.
Sleep Number recently announced a goal to help more than one million young people achieve life-changing sleep through their products [Sleep Number beds] and sleep expertise by 2025.
“We believe helping future generations achieve quality sleep can and will change the world. Excellent sleep is essential to a healthier and happier society, strengthening our connections with one another, and expanding the frontier of what’s possible,” said Shelly Ibach, president and CEO of Sleep Number.
Watch Sleep Number and GenYOUth CEO’s discuss this topic more here.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Students like Mr. Todd’s fourth grader mentioned above are looking for guidance, help and strategies to cope. As the caring adults in their lives, you should focus on two things:
1) Help make youth less busy while helping them manage their time better, and
2) Teach them/help facilitate a good sleep routine, especially as youth move from middle to high school age. The importance of a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine cannot be underestimated.
Like nutrition and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. To ensure kids and their families understand the impact of quality sleep and have the tools to achieve it, Sleep Number is committed to improving 1 million kids’ lives through better sleep by 2025. To learn more, visit the Sleep Number Social Impact page, and find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.
*ABOUT THE SURVEY
GENYOUth and Sleep Number partnered together to gain perspective on teen sleep. Online survey conducted April 26 to May 18, 2018 with a nationally representative sample of middle, junior, and senior high school students, ages 12-18, including 1,587 youth affiliated with GENYOUth programs and initiatives and 521 youth in a control group. Results were statistically weighted to ensure a representative group by gender, age, race/ethnicity, and geography. An advisory committee of health, education, social science, and youth engagement experts and practitioners provided guidance on the research topic, hypothesis, and online survey content. Two waves of student focus groups (conducted by phone conference) were held to inform the survey content and questions.