Sleep education can help young kids sleep better

Harold Mandel's picture
A sleepy kid

Getting adequate sleep is essential for the healthy development of young kids. When problems arise with young kids sleeping well a growing awareness of the potential dangerous side effects of drugs to help kids sleep has lead to an interest in non-drug interventions to help with this problem. One successful approach to helping kids to sleep naturally is sleep education.

Researchers evaluated a novel sleep education program for low-income preschool children and their families reported the journal Sleep. The participants in this study were Head Start preschool families in greater Lansing and Detroit, Michigan. In this program parents attended a one-time, 45 minute sleep education program.

Educational interventions can help kids sleep better

The preschoolers received 320 total minutes of classroom sleep education. It was concluded that educational interventions in early childhood may have a positive effect on parents' sleep knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy. This can also have a positive effect on children's sleep behavior. It was observed that repeated exposure to the new information about sleep may be important for parents and their kids.

A sleep education program was found to help preschoolers sleep 30 minutes longer at night reports the University of Michigan. According to a new study at the University of Michigan early interventions among Head Start preschool families improve sleep behaviors for kids. Preschool kids taking part in this educational sleep program experienced a 30-minute average increase
in sleep duration at a one-month follow-up.


Families in two Head Start programs participated in the Sweet Dreamzzz Early Childhood Sleep Education Program for this study. A Detroit-area nonprofit organization called Sweet Dreamzzz, Inc. developed this program. When funding allows this program is offered for free. Head Start programs have a mission of giving preschool opportunities to low-income families. It is hoped these programs will improve the preparedness of kids for elementary school.

Just 30 minutes more sleep a night is beneficial

Lead study author Katherine Wilson DeRue, M.D., M.S., has said we know that an increase in sleep duration of just 30 minutes is associated with better function for kids during the entire day. Because parents often underestimate how much sleep their kids need an educational program like this which is directed at parents when they have more control over their kids’ sleep schedules can have a great positive impact.

Reminders dealing with the sleep information are important

Ronald D. Chervin, M.D., M.S., the study’s senior author, says his research team found that a two-week program of daily exposure to sleep education in the preschool classroom, along with an initial presentation for parents, can really be an effective strategy to help kids get more sleep. However, he has cautioned repeated exposure or reminders dealing with the sleep information may be necessary to maintain the positive effects for kids and for parents over time.

Information about the need for adequate sleep for kids to help them maintain good health in body and mind should be shared with kids and parents alike. Along with good nutrition adequate sleep is one of the most essential components of a healthy lifestyle program for kids. The efforts of Sweet Dreamzzz, Inc. to help kids sleep better with sleep education are impressive and deserve consideration when approaching the problem of helping our kids to sleep well at night.



When we think of educating children for healthy sleep habits, it is crucial to educate them about the causes and best responses to bad dreams. For sure, one cause of sleep problems in childhood is bad dreams. Either children wake up with bad dreams or nightmares and have trouble getting back to sleep or they may be afraid to go to sleep for fear of bad dreams. In the children's picture book, Mommy, Daddy, I Had a Bad Dream! Joey a bouncy kangaroo has a series of bad dreams which his parents lovingly help him to understand. As Joey's father says, "Dreams are stories we tell ourselves for a reason. We just have to understand the reason." The book helps children to understand that bad dreams are leftover upset feelings that are woven into stories and that they can be viewed as puzzles that children can solve themselves. Once children get engaged in understanding how bad dreams are connected to unpleasant experiences, they cease to feel victimized and become empowered, with the result that their sleep is much longer and deeper.