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ISD 709 debuts first-in-the-nation sleep program

Duluth school children are learning about a subject they will review every night of their lives -- sleep. Independent School District 709 is the first in the nation to adopt the Sleep Well, Do Well Star Sleeper Campaign to teach all its third-gra...

Duluth school children are learning about a subject they will review every night of their lives -- sleep.
Independent School District 709 is the first in the nation to adopt the Sleep Well, Do Well Star Sleeper Campaign to teach all its third-graders the importance of establishing lifelong healthy sleep habits.
This week, Duluthian Sandra McGinnis, a member of the Sleep Disorders Research Advisory Board at the National Institutes of Health, and Mary Carlson, manager of St. Mary's-Duluth Clinic's Sleep Disorder Center in Duluth, visited nearly every third-grade class in the city to talk to the children about getting proper sleep. They were helped by the beloved cartoon character Garfield, the official spokescat of the program, himself a champion sleeper.
With posters showing Garfield doing well in school because he was well-rested, the children got the message that adequate sleep, nine hours a night for children their age, is important for their health and success in school.
"Daytime performance is directly related to the quality of sleep we get at night," McGinnis said. "By educating young children about good sleep hygiene, they will be better prepared to deal with the lifestyle demands in their teen years."
The program was created by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, an arm of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. With local underwriting costs provided by Murphy McGinnis Media, Duluth became the first school district in the country to adopt the program, which includes educational presentations, a pre- and post-test on sleep knowledge and a workbook of sleep-related activities geared specifically for 7- to-11-year-old children.
"It is exciting to be a part of this national education program," said Julio Almanza, superintendent of Duluth Public Schools. "We see sleep as a very important element in our wellness program. In fact, our District PTA is working to address the issues of sleep needs of students."
Duluth will gain national attention for taking the lead on the sleep campaign. Elizabeth Gay, a producer with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide of Washington, D.C., will be in town next week to film Debbie Gill's third-grade class as the children learn sleep lessons at Lester Park Elementary School. The video news release will be distributed to national media outlets during October, Children's Health Month, to teach Americans that healthy sleep habits are important to establish early in life.
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"We want young children to understand that they need at least nine hours of restful sleep each night and to establish a good night's sleep as a lifelong habit," NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant said, in a release on the project. "Adequate sleep is associated with good health and performance, as well as fewer accidents; an even more critical issue when children reach adolescence. The Duluth School District is to be commended for being the first school district in the country to incorporate a sleep education program into the school day."
During McGinnis' visits to third-grade classes, children shared the reasons they had trouble sleeping. Distractions included noisy pets in their bedrooms, television, traffic noise and bothersome siblings. She reinforced the program's tips for good sleep (see adjacent box) and encouraged the children to go home and share what they have learned about healthy sleep with their parents and caregivers.
"You can move your noisy pets out of your bedroom at night, and you can ask your family to turn down the television. Most changes to improve sleep hygiene are simple," she told the children. "You are going to be the teachers, and your families are going to learn from you."
Gill values the lessons taught in the program and is happy to help educate the rest of the country through the video news release.
"I do not think children realize how important sleep is, and the tips they learn on how to fall asleep are worthwhile," she said.
More information on the Star Sleeper program can be found at http://starsleep.nhlbi.nih.gov
SLEEP TIPS
Duluth school children are learning tips for good sleep and have been encouraged to share their lessons with their families. With the help of Garfield the cat, the children learned they need nine hours of sleep, and to help them get that they should:
1. Set a regular time for bed each night and stick to it.
2. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine every night, such as a taking a warm bath or reading a book.
3. Make after-dinner playtime relaxing. Vigorous exercise near bedtime can make it difficult for children to fall asleep.
4. Eat big meals at least two hours before bedtime.
5. Don't eat or drink anything with caffeine for at least six hours before bedtime.
6. Make bedrooms comfortable. Temperature should be moderate, blankets and pillows should be comfy.
7. Keep noise levels low.

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