Student Sleep Health Week will take place Sept. 12-18, 2021. It is organized by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) to drive awareness of the importance of healthy sleep for students of all ages to learn, grow and thrive.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau report that 78% of high school students and 34% of children don’t get sufficient sleep on an average school night, and studies show that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on sleep in children.
The pandemic altered children’s daily routines, including sleep and wake schedules, screen time and physical activity, all of which can be harmful to their overall health and well-being. Now that most students are back in the classroom, it’s important that they establish new routines that include the proper amount of healthy sleep.
Why does sleep matter?
Getting enough sleep is critical to the health and well-being of students of all ages. Sufficient sleep helps students:
- Excel in the classroom by maximizing attention, memory and learning abilities
- Perform better in sports by being faster, stronger and more accurate
- Feel positive and have a more optimistic attitude toward life
- Look their best and maintain a healthy weight
- Have fun and enjoy life by making better decisions and staying safe
The benefits of healthy sleep require not only adequate sleep duration, but also appropriate timing, daily regularity, good sleep quality and the absence of sleep disorders.
When students don’t get the recommended hours of healthy sleep on a regular basis, it can lead to:
- Behavior and learning problems
- Mental health problems
How much sleep do students need?
The AASM recommends:
- Elementary School: Children 6-12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Middle and High School: Teenagers 13-18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
Use the AASM’s Bedtime Calculator to identify the appropriate bedtime by age and wake time, available at sleepeducation.org/bedtime.
How can students improve their sleep?
The back-to-school transition is an ideal time to get back on track with your sleep schedule.
- Begin to transition to a more structured sleep schedule at least two weeks before school starts.
- Gradually shift bedtime at least 15 minutes earlier each night and wake time 15 minutes earlier each morning until on the right schedule.
- Create a quiet, cool sleep environment.
- Develop a relaxing nightly routine, which may include reading, journaling or taking a warm bath or shower.
- Restrict screen time before bed.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, whether classes are held in-person, online or in a hybrid format, including getting up and going to bed at regular times.
What time should school start?
According to the AASM, more than half of Americans (54%) say that school starts too early in the morning for middle school and high school students. In addition, 90% of parents say that early school start times have an impact on their child/teen’s ability to get enough sleep on school nights.
The AASM recommends a national standard of middle school and high school start times of 8:30 AM or later.
Why? During adolescence, internal circadian rhythms and biological sleep drive change to result in later sleep and wake times. As a result of these changes, early middle school and high school start times can:
- Curtail sleep
- Hamper a student’s preparedness to learn
- Negatively impact physical and mental health
- Impair driving safety
Delaying school start times positively impacts student achievement, health and safety, and support is needed by educators to ensure that extracurricular activities don’t interfere with students’ need for healthy sleep.
About Student Sleep Health Week
Supported by a resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, the third week of September is designated as Student Sleep Health Week. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is conducting Student Sleep Health Week (SSHW), from Sept. 12-18, 2021, to help students get the healthy sleep they need to excel this school year. Learn more about the supporting partners: