Wednesday, August 19, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Sleeping for Good Grades and Good Health

“Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance.”                --Anne Wheaton, Ph.D., lead author and epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Population Health

All About Sleep
August is when America’s kids go back to school.  That is why it's a great month to teach parents skills that can improve their children’s health, safety, and academic performance.  The quote (above) is from a recent CDC press release entitled, “Most US middle and high schools start the school day too early”.  If you have a child in middle or high school, you already know this.  

When my son, Edward, was in high school, his classes started at 7:05 AM.  It always felt like the school board was torturing parents and kids.  We (I) would have to be up at 5:30 AM so that Edward could be at the bus stop by 6:05 AM.  The bus came this early so that kids on the free and reduced meal program could get to school in time to have breakfast before classes.  I saw first-hand how destructive such an early start time is for families and for kids. 

The fact is that kids need lots of sleep.  Most don’t get enough.  High school kids need 8.5-9.5 hours a night.  You do the math. For my son to get up at 5:30 when he was in high school, he needed to be in bed at 8:30 PM to get 9 hours a night.  Since he was in the marching band, band practice was 2 nights a week until 9:00.  Makes no sense to start classes at 7:05.  He never got 9 hours of sleep a night and waking him up after a night of not enough sleep became one of my most dreaded tasks as a parent.  If you have kids in any after school activities, I know you can relate.

In the recent CDC press release, it states that “insufficient sleep is common among high school students and is associated with several health risks such as being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs as well as poor academic performance.  The proportion of high school students who fail to get sufficient sleep (2 out of 3) has remained steady since 2007, according to the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report.”

The evidence is clear that not getting enough sleep is a risk factor for poor academic performance in addition to being overweight.  Giving kids some boundaries about bedtimes that ensure they are getting enough sleep most nights is a big Back to School Tip for parents. 

If adults are overweight or obese, one question to ask is, “Are YOU getting enough sleep?”  Once you start getting an adequate amount of sleep, many people find it is easier to lose weight.  How about that for a sleep fun fact? 

Let’s be good role models and make sure that WE are getting enough sleep.  Then families can have a conversation about this topic.  Make it cool to talk about sleep at your family dinners.   Your children will thank you.  Maybe not this school year, maybe in 5 years. Remember, as parents we are investing our time and efforts into the present and future lives and health of our children.  Can life get any better than this?

To read NIH's article about the relationship between brain health and sleep, click here. Lots of valuable information.  Health is wealth.  Sleep is brain power.  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.