Dallas County

In Dallas and Around the Country, Students Need More Sleep

Sleep can influence physical and mental health, as well as cognitive development. That’s why it’s important kids get enough of it.
Sleep can influence physical and mental health, as well as cognitive development. That’s why it’s important kids get enough of it. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
An educational metaverse is being tested out on students at Dallas Hybrid Prep, the first permanently hybrid school in the state. Pushed by the necessity of remote work during the pandemic, local company STEMuli Technology created the virtual world where students can learn and play.

Taylor Shead, the company's CEO, said their metaverse will one day be integrated with products like Apple Watch to help measure how much sleep students are getting and offer recommendations on how they can get more of it.

"We know the importance of hydration, activity and sleep," Shead said. "The school tasked us with being creative to consider what would benefit students and we consider these external factors as all contributing factors to whole, healthy children."

It’s advice students and parents might need, according to a recent report by CHILDREN AT RISK and Mattress Firm, which found that at least a third of children in the U.S. are not getting enough sleep.

“Education is often seen as a pathway out of poverty, and our schools, food banks, shelters, churches and other nonprofits regularly rally to address children’s needs in the classroom,” the report said. “Unfortunately, poor quality sleep has the potential to take away from these admirable efforts.”

"We know the importance of hydration, activity and sleep." – Taylor Shead, STEMuli Technology

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children and adolescents who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk for health problems. These include obesity, Type 2 diabetes, poor mental health and injuries. A lack of sleep can also lead to attention and behavioral problems that affect a student’s academic performance.

People between the ages of six and 18 should be getting anywhere between eight to 12 hours of sleep every day. That’s not happening across the country, but it’s not as big of a problem in Dallas.

Dallas had the second-lowest rate of sleep insecurity compared with all other regions, according to the CHILDREN AT RISK and Mattress Firm report. Dallas also tested on par or below the state average for sleep insecurity indicators with one exception. The exception is that more Dallas young people are in the workforce when compared to the rest of the state.

There were still sleep inequities in Dallas. Areas at high risk of poverty in Dallas had 27% more sleep insecurity when compared to the whole city, “meaning that there are some sleep inequities within the region,” the report said.

But there's sleep inequity all over the country, according to the report. Generally speaking, the report said kids with a lower socioeconomic status have been shown to sleep and learn less than their higher status peers. Race is often also a factor.

CHILDREN AT RISK and Mattress Firm, however, say there are things parents and policymakers can do to make sure kids get the sleep they need.

If parents want their kids to get good sleep, they should stick to a routine. A regular bedtime and routine can help children fall asleep faster. The report found that when bed times for school-aged children varied by an hour or more during the week, they displayed more behavioral problems. These routines can be more effective when they involve reading or singing. Studies have found that this can increase verbal test scores, sleep duration, and overall health.

Parents should also keep their children active during the day when possible, keep their rooms cold at night, and lessen screen time to increase the time they're asleep.

As for policymakers, they should adjust school start times and calendars to prioritize sleep; create more opportunities for students to be active; expand access to flexible, high-quality childcare and healthcare; and support legislation that helps parents meet their children's basic needs.

“Not having a safe, stable place to call home isn’t good for childhood sleep quality, nor is the stress associated with housing insecurity,” the report explained. “Ensuring all families have what they need to adequately feed and house their children can lead to better sleep and health outcomes for all.”
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn