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Nine Hours of Sleep Key to "Back to School" Success

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Garfield launch "How I Get a Heap of Sleep" contest to help focus kids and parents on importance of adequate sleep

For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2002

As children and parents prepare for the new school year, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) encourages them to put adequate nighttime sleep on the "back to school" list, along with pencils, binders and backpacks.

According to the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) at NHLBI, children need at least nine hours of sleep each night on a regular basis for their health, safety, and best performance in school and other activities. Inadequate sleep in children can lead to attention difficulties, easy frustration, and difficulty controlling emotions.

"Adequate nighttime sleep is just as important as healthy eating and exercise for children's development," said NHLBI Director Claude Lenfant, M.D. "The start of the new school year is a great time to establish a good night's sleep as a lifelong habit."

To ensure parents and their children get a strong start this school year, the NHLBI and NCSDR are launching a "How I Get a Heap of Sleep" contest with Paws, Inc., the creative studio behind Garfield the Cat and NHLBI's partner in the Sleep Well. Do Well. Star Sleeper Campaign. The Campaign's goal is to educate children ages 7-11 - their parents, teachers, and health care providers - about the importance of adequate nighttime sleep.

The contest invites children to tell Garfield - the Campaign's "spokescat" and "Star Sleeper" - three things they do each night to help them get a good night's sleep, such as reading a story or taking a warm bath. Contest information and entry forms are available on the Campaign's Web site at [Link no longer available] and the Garfield Web site at For parents, NHLBI is offering some simple tips that highlight what will help children get a good night's sleep - an important reminder as children head back to school.

  • Establish a regular bedtime and stick to it.
    Setting a regular bedtime and wake up time reinforces a child's biological clock, making it easier to fall asleep quickly and awake feeling fully rested and alert.
  • Eliminate distractions in your child's room.
    If there's a television or computer in the bedroom, establish another place where kids can use them.
  • Avoid feeding your child a big meal too close to bedtime.
    A heavy meal close to bedtime can keep a child awake at night.
  • Avoid sodas and other beverages with caffeine.
    Consuming anything with caffeine less than six hours before bedtime can interfere with a good night's sleep.
  • Build in quiet time before bedtime.
    Because the days are still long, children may want to go outside to play after dinner. But make sure they come back inside in enough time to allow some time to relax before bedtime.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
    Is it a bath in the evening, followed by a book? Or the reverse? Try different routines; find out what works best, and stick to it.
  • Make sure the room is dark and quiet and the bed is comfortable.
    Use a nightlight if your child finds the dark scary.
  • Maintain a comfortable room temperature.
    Be sure the bedroom isn't too hot or too cold, and that pajamas are comfortable and seasonal.

Additional information for parents - and teachers - as well as fun, interactive games with sleep messages for children are available on the Star Sleeper Web site. Visitors to the site can also check out Star Sleeper gear, including a 48-page Fun Pad filled with games and puzzles and a 14-inch Garfield plush doll, complete with bunny rabbit slippers and Star Sleeper "jammies".

About the Sleep Well. Do Well. Star Sleeper Campaign: In February 2001, the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute launched the Sleep Well. Do Well. Star Sleeper Campaign to educate America's children - and their parents, educators and health care providers - that children ages 7-11 need at least nine hours of sleep each night on a regular basis to do their best at whatever they do. The Campaign is co-sponsored by PAWS, Inc., the corporate entity behind Garfield the Cat. Garfield is the Campaign's official "spokescat". Other founding partners include the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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