This lesson helps young people understand how important sleep is to growing bodies and minds. The youth will determine how many hours of sleep they should get each night and learn how to track healthy sleeping habits in a sleep diary.
Introduce the topic of sleep by asking the questions below and facilitating a discussion with the participants’ answers.
How many hours should kids sleep every night? Let young people guess first. Then tell them the answer according to the following guidelines:
- ages 3 to 10: 10 to 12 hours each day
- ages 11 to 12: about 10 hours each day
- teenagers (ages 13 to 17): about nine hours each day.
Then ask them: OK, so if you get up at (use an example of a time they might get up), what time should you go to sleep at night to make sure you get enough hours in? Help young people figure this out if they cannot do it on their own.
Why do kids need plenty of sleep? Let the youth answer, but make sure they understand the following reasons why sleep is important:
- Sleep plays an important role in healthy growth and development. Your body needs the deep rest it gets during sleep to help your muscles, bones, and skin prevent injury and illness and helps your brain develop well.
- Sleep also helps you remember what you learn, pay attention and concentrate, solve problems and think of new ideas. Studies show that people can focus better when they’ve had enough sleep, that’s especially important during school. Having enough sleep simply makes you feel better during the day.
Is all sleep the same? Let young people answer first and then explain that just like nature is full of cycles (the earth rotates, causing cycles of light and darkness – day and night; the moon has cycles) we have cycles in our sleep as well. Our bodies can’t get fully rested unless they are able to go through all the cycles several times. Explain that there are five stages in one cycle of sleep. Each cycle of sleep takes about 90 minutes. That means that within 10 hours of sleep we go through about six cycles and 33 stages of sleep.
- Stage 1 and 2: You first fall asleep, but are not yet in a deep sleep.
- Stage 3 and 4: You are in a deep, restful sleep. Your breathing and heart rate slow down, and your body is still.
- Stage 5: You are in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Your brain is active and you dream.
Activity: Healthy Bedtime Habits
Ask the youth to think about what bedtime is like right now.
- How do you sleep best? (Have kids demonstrate their favorite way to sleep.)
- Do you sleep with any special blankets, stuffed animals, pillows etc.? (Have kids raise their hands to answer.)
- What kinds of things things help you relax and feel sleepy?
- What makes it easier for you to go to sleep when you need to?
Can you name some things that might help you have better bedtime habits? When young people come up with helpful ideas for how to develop good sleep habits, ask them to write them down on a piece of paper in checklist form. (Alternately, create a master checklist based on the answers and distribute copies.) Possible answers:
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Your body gets used to a schedule and will be ready to sleep.
- Don’t drink sodas with caffeine, especially in the afternoon and at nighttime.
- Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.
- Exercise during the day. Running and playing at least 3 hours before bed helps your body get ready for sleep.
- Avoid big meals before bedtime. Drink a glass of warm milk or have a light, healthful snack like fruit.
- Have a bedtime routine. Do the same relaxing things before bed each night, like taking a warm shower, reading or listening to quiet music. Your body will know it’s time to get ready to sleep.
Activity: Sleep Diary
A good night’s sleep is important. Keep track of your sleeping habits using a sleep diary.
After a full night of sleep, you wake up ready for a new day of school, fun activities or family time. You use a lot of energy throughout your day to go to school, play outside, do your homework, participate in sports, practice an instrument, and play with your friends. After all of that, your body needs sleep! Your body is just like a car’s gas tank, full in the morning and empty at the end of the day. If your family has a car, your parents have to fill up the car’s gas tank. Getting enough sleep will help you to fill up YOUR own gas tank! A full tank gives you enough energy to stay busy and do your best each and every day!
When you get enough sleep, you can:
- pay attention better in school
- be creative
- fight sickness so you stay healthy
- be in a good mood
- get along with friends and family
- solve problems better.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you can:
- forget what you learned
- have trouble making good choices
- be grumpy and in a bad mood
- have trouble playing sports/games
- be less patient with brothers, sisters and friends
- have trouble listening to parents and teachers
- become sick more often.
You should talk to your parents and doctor if you:
- have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- snore or have trouble breathing while you sleep
- have weird feelings or “growing pains” in your legs
- feel sleepy or tired during the day.
Ask the young people to use this sleep diary to keep track of their sleep over the next week to help them know how healthy their sleep habits are or are not.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing healthy sleep habits at home.
Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)
Promoting a good night’s sleep
Are your kids getting enough sleep?
Additional Instructor Resources
Your Kid’s Sleep