Temple University study helping kids get more sleep

Friday, February 6, 2015
VIDEO: Local study helping kids get more sleep
EMBED <>More Videos

Researchers at Temple University are enrolling families, tracking kids' sleeping habits and helping them get more shuteye.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Researchers at Temple University are enrolling families, tracking kids' sleeping habits and helping them get more shuteye.

11-year-old A.J. Hardrick isn't playing an ordinary computer game. Tis one tests how quickly his mind is working.

It's part of Temple University's "Project Sleep Kids" study. A.J. recently went through it.

His mother says he's always struggled with getting to sleep on time and waking up for school.

"It used to take two to three times to wake him up," said Natasha Pindle, mother.

She says his grades never suffered but he was often tired even while playing his favorite sports.

Researcher Chantelle Hart says there are several reasons school-aged kids don't get enough sleep - including after school activities, sports, homework, TV and video games.

"Basically all these daytime activities kind of creep into the amount of time that is available for sleep," said Hart, Ph.D.

Children ages 8 to 11 are supposed to get 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night.

During the study, kids' sleep is measured. A.J. shows us the accelerometer he wore on his wrist and the activity tracker on his belt.

Hart says the data is then printed and analyzed.

"So we can estimate that with an actograph when sleep starts and when sleep ends and use other information. And family shares with us, they complete sleep diaries as well," said Hart.

The games are used to see how sleep or lack of it affects a child's thinking.

Families are then given personalized instructions on how to increase kids sleep.

For A.J., he had to be consistent with bedtime - set 10 hours before wake time.

He had to establish a bedtime routine with no screens. Kids may also need to cut caffeine.

"The hardest part was going to sleep early because I don't really like going to sleep early," said A.J.

But he says he got used to it and it started paying off.

"I didn't tell him, 'Okay A.J., its bedtime,' he already told me, 'Goodnight mom, I'm going to sleep,'" said Pindle.

Good sleep hygiene is also rewarded in the study with prizes.

"Whenever we change behavior, we always try to re-enforce the behavior change," said Hart.

But the best prize for A.J. and his family - now, waking up is no longer a challenge and his energy level is soaring.

"It turned his body into a personal alarm clock," said Pindle.

"I can run around all day. I'm in gym and I'm just running and running and running and running," said A.J.

One more tip for parents, Dr. Hart says you don't have to do this overnight, she says increasing sleep gradually works best - even 15 to 30 minutes extra can make a difference.

To be eligible for the study, your child must be 8 to 11 years old and sleep 9.5 hours or less per night.

The study takes about two months and it requires four appointments and several phone calls.

For more information on Temple University's 'Project Sleep Kids', call 215-707-8998.