Sleep promotes learning throughout a lifetime

Public Health Corner

School will be starting soon, and students of all ages are getting ready — from shopping for school supplies and packing up backpacks, to choosing what to wear to make that first day back-to-school impression a good one.

However, most students don’t realize one of the hardest things to have ready might just be their sleep schedule. After the long nights and changed morning routines of summer vacation, people of all ages may not be ready to wake up and put forth their best self.

When a student can start the school day well rested, they are better able to focus on learning and may have less behavior problems in the classroom.

Sleep is important for learning throughout a lifetime. Children need more sleep for their brains to grow and learn at their very best.

Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can cause mood changes, short temper, difficulty dealing with stress and, of course, feeling fatigued.

Some poor health outcomes such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, poor mental health and injury have also been linked to people who do not get enough sleep.

How do you know how much sleep people need based on age? The current sleep recommendations from the CDC state a preschooler should get a total of 10-13 hours, including nap times throughout the day; elementary school (kindergarten through sixth grade) students should get 9-12 hours a night; and middle to high school students need 8-10 hours of sleep.

Adults, whether in school or not, should try to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Let’s say the kids refuse to lay down until it gets dark out, which is as late as 8:30 pm, and then have to be awake for school by 6:30 in the morning. That means even some high school students, needing only 8-10 hours, might be cutting sleep time short.

So what can families do? Start a routine. This can be as simple as turn off electronics, brush teeth, turn down the lights, and sit together for a book or a short conversation about your day.

Start the routine at the same time each evening. Routines help the body get ready for sleep at any age. A couple of weeks before school starts, parents can slowly change bedtimes by beginning the routine 10 or 15 minutes earlier each evening.

Talk about sleep as a family to help the students understand the importance of a good night’s rest. This conversation might include talking about how enough sleep lowers stress, makes it easier to remember things learned in school that day, and helps the student feel more awake during classroom activities.

Older kids and adult learners might find it helpful to keep a simple sleep journal. This helps to see the connection when learning was stressful to how much sleep one might need to be at their best.

— Michelle Miller is a public health nurse for the Brown County Public Health Department.


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