The ABCs of Back-to-School Sleep Schedules: The Consequences of Insufficient Sleep

National Sleep Foundation Urges Parents, Children to Make Sleep a Priority

During the School Year; Offers Tips for Back-to-School

Aug 16, 2006, 01:00 ET from National Sleep Foundation

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- For many children and teens, summer
 vacation is synonymous with staying up late and sleeping in. Returning to
 an early morning sleep schedule can be challenging, but it is vital to the
 health and successful school performance of America's youth. The National
 Sleep Foundation (NSF) is calling on parents and students to start
 adjusting their sleep schedules now, in order to be well-rested and alert
 for the start of the school year.
     "Although it's tempting to sleep as late as possible during the
 remaining days of summer, it's not necessarily the best strategy for
 starting the school year off right," says Richard L. Gelula, NSF's chief
 executive officer. "In fact, a lack of sleep seriously affects academic
 performance, mood and a teenager's ability to drive safely."
     According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2004 and 2006 Sleep in
 America polls, children and teens overall do not get enough sleep.
 School-aged children get an average of 1.5 hours less than the recommended
 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night on school nights, and only 20 percent of
 adolescents get the recommended 9 hours of sleep per night on school
 nights. In fact, nearly half of all adolescents sleep less than eight hours
 on school nights.
     "Maintaining a consistent schedule, which provides for plenty of sleep,
 will help students adjust to the return of busy school days," says Mary
 Carskadon, PhD, director of the E.P. Bradley Hospital Sleep and
 Chronobiology Research Lab at Brown University, professor of psychiatry and
 human behavior at Brown Medical School. "Irregular sleep patterns
 negatively affect students' biological clocks and sleep quality -- which in
 turn affects their ability to perform well in school and their moods."
     Tips for Getting Your Child's Sleep Schedule Back on Track:
      * Several weeks to a month before the start of school, set a limit for
        the latest bedtime and wake up time.  Then gradually move these times
        earlier (about 15 minutes every other day, time permitting) as the
        school year starts to approach.
      * Soak in summer's last days with early mornings rather than late nights.
        Emphasize activity and bright light in the morning: go outside and take
        a walk or play with friends, don't sit indoors or in front of the
      * Be Consistent! Set and keep a bedtime and wake-up schedule even on
        weekends, this will help in the adjustment to an earlier school
     A lack of sleep affects all aspects of a child or teen's life:
      * Children who get less than eight hours of sleep are more likely than
        their peers who get optimal sleep to get lower grades.
      * At least once a week, 28 percent of high school students report falling
        asleep in school, 22 percent report falling asleep while doing
        homework, and 14 percent report arriving late or missing school
        entirely because they oversleep.
      * 73% of those adolescents who report feeling unhappy, sad, or depressed
        also report not getting enough sleep at night and being excessively
        sleepy during the day.
      * More than half of all adolescents report feeling sleepy during the
        school day.
      * While 35% of middle school students report getting an optimal amount of
        sleep on school nights, only 9% of high school students do.
     The National Sleep Foundation's 2006 Sleep in America poll also shows
 an awareness gap among parents of adolescents. While more than half of
 adolescents reported not getting the sleep they need, 90% percent of
 parents felt that their adolescent was getting enough sleep. Parents should
 know that all children -- even teenagers -- need more sleep than adults.
 For younger kids, having bedtime routines such as reading with parents can
 result in better and longer sleep. For older kids, having a set bedtime is
 associated with an increased likelihood of getting optimal sleep and a
 decreased likelihood of feeling too tired or sleepy during the day.
     Sleep tips that will help kids start the school year off right:
      * Maintain a regular bedtime -- keeping the same sleep schedule makes it
        easier to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.
      * Establish a sleep routine -- avoid exercising or doing anything too
        intellectually stimulating in the last couple of hours before going to
      * Create a good sleep environment -- cool, dark, quiet and comfortable.
      * Limit caffeine, especially after lunchtime.
      * Turn off the TV.  Flickering light and distributing content can prevent
        good sleep.  And, adolescents with four or more such items in their
        bedrooms were more likely than their peers to get an insufficient
        amount of sleep at night and almost twice as likely to fall asleep in
        school and while doing homework.
     Tips for Parents:
      * Be a good role model and get the recommended amount of sleep each
      * Recognize that children -- even teenagers -- need more sleep than
      * Talk to your kids about the importance of sleep and make sleep a
        priority for the entire family.
      * Ask teachers if your child is sleepy or sleeping during class.
      * Adolescents with set bedtimes before 10:00 pm are much more likely to
        get an optimal amount of sleep than those who don't.
     NSF Background
     The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is an independent nonprofit
 organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving
 greater understanding of sleep and sleep disorders. NSF furthers its
 mission through sleep-related education, research, and advocacy
 initiatives. NSF's membership includes researchers and clinicians focused
 on sleep medicine as well as other professionals in the
 health/medical/science fields, individuals, and more than 800 sleep clinics
 throughout North America that join the Foundation's Community Sleep
 Awareness Partners program. For more information, log onto or

SOURCE National Sleep Foundation