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When it comes to health, it isn’t always easy for kids and families to navigate the facts. Health’s Up is a podcast that explores health choices through child voices. In a new series all about stress, join our host, pediatric nurse practitioner Kristi Westphaln, and middle schoolers at Mary Bethune School in Cleveland as we explore the science behind stress, easy ways to cope, and how to build a community of support even in these virtual times. Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Spotify | Feed

10 Hours! Every Night! | Health's Up

Students at Marion-Sterling Elementary put their heads on their desk to mimic what it feels like when you're too tired at school. [Kristi Westphaln / ideastream]
Students at Marion-Sterling Elementary put their heads on their desk to mimic what it feels like when you're too tired at school.

When it comes to health, it isn’t always easy for kids and families to navigate the facts. That’s why we created “ Health’s Up,” a new podcast that explores healthy choices through kids’ voices. The show is hosted by pediatric nurse practitioner Kristi Westphaln. Teachers - find lesson plans here!

Have you ever had a hard time falling asleep? You aren't alone, according to fifth grader Amyah from Mrs. Simpson's class at Marion-Sterling Elementary in Cleveland.

"Sometimes, I just can't fall asleep.  I don't know why. I just don't," she said.

The challenge of getting shut-eye

Science suggests that school age children need roughly 10 hours of sleep per night, however, we found out that the majority of students in Mrs. Simpson’s fifth grade class are not getting enough sleep. Two students, Nar’Velle and Tania, shared their challenges getting shut-eye. 

"I was waking up in the middle of the night but that was because of my tonsils, so I had them removed," Nar'Velle said.

Tania said she made a YouTube channel, and she gets distracted by the account's notifications on her phone. "I just can’t stay away from the phone," she said.

Lots of different things can get in the way of sleep, be it tonsils or cell phones. Research shows that Mrs. Simpson’s students are not the only ones missing out on sleep. Kids in general don’t get enough sleep. This is a big problem because it’s hard for us to be at our best without rest. This is especially important for students. 

Dr. Sally Ibrahim, a sleep specialist at University Hospitals’ Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital agrees. She says not getting a good night’s sleep can make it harder to pay attention in school. It can even make you cranky or act out in class. 

"Equally, bedtime and wake time are important. Having that same structure on weekends and weekdays, having it as as structured as possible is very helpful," she said. 

She also recommends cutting back on caffeine, which can be found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and even chocolate, and is a common culprit in stealing our ability to fall asleep. Caffeine gives us energy, and that’s not what we want when we’re trying to fall asleep.  

Student Nar’Velle said for him, it’s important to burn off energy in the evening so he’s nice and tired when it’s time for bed.  

"My tip would have to be to try to waste half of your energy. Try to move around a lot so when it is time to go to bed, it is really easy."

Sleep matters

Think about when you would need to go to bed in order to log 10 straight hours of sleep before your alarm goes off for school. If you wake up at 7 a.m., that means a bedtime of 9 p.m. on school nights!  

Avoiding caffeine after lunch is a good first step to hitting that ideal bedtime. But you also have to think about technology and the role it plays in keeping you on high alert. 

Even though things like phones and television keep us entertained and connected to our friends and family, having them in your bedroom or using them in bed can really get in the way of a good nights’ sleep. Dr. Ibrahim recommends turning down the brightness of your devices at night, and turning them to 'nighttime' mode to minimize distractions while you're trying to fall asleep.

It can also be helpful to develop a sleep routine, like taking a shower or stretching right before bed, to help your body wind down from the day and get prepared to fall asleep.  

The jury is still out on what the best time of day might be to start the school day, however, the science is clear that having enough sleep is absolutely essential for healthy minds and health bodies.  

From exam room, to classroom, to newsroom, we know that healthy habits matter.   

Be in the know, stay healthy, and grow!