Reading, ‘Riting, ‘Rithmetic, and … Rest


From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 27, 2001 (Washington) — What do the National Institutes of Health and Garfield the Cat have in common? They both want to make sure that young children get more than a “catnap” each night.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, along with Garfield, on Tuesday launched a five-year educational campaign to educate children, parents, teachers, and healthcare providers about the need for children to get at least nine hours of sleep every night.

The goal of the campaign is to demonstrate to children — as well as the adults that influence their behavior — that a good night’s sleep will improve their performance in school, sports, and other extracurricular activities and to show that a good night’s sleep can improve children’s relationships with family and friends.

About 70 million Americans are believed to suffer from sleep problems. Though children are just as likely to suffer as adults, most federal sleep programs have focused primarily on adults.

“Sleep disorders are often not recognized in children, and symptoms related to sleep deprivation may be erroneously attributed to hyperactivity or behavior disorders, to boredom with school, or to today’s hectic lifestyles,” explained Carl Hunt, MD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, speaking at a press conference.

An adequate amount of sleep has been associated with good health and better overall performance. Research also has shown that an inadequate amount of sleep can result in difficulty focusing, irritability, frustration, and mood swings.

“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,” added Claude Lenfant, MD, director of the NHLBI.

As part of the campaign, children aged 7-11 will receive a fun pad and a 48-page book of games and puzzles with embedded sleep messages, featuring Garfield. The fun pad and book will be distributed through schools, youth centers, and physicians. The educational materials also can be ordered online at

“Garfield and I and the folks at PAWS, Inc. are delighted to play a role in this important campaign to teach kids that a good night’s sleep is important if you want to do well in school and in sports and to be in top form,” said Garfield creator Jim Davis in a prepared statement.

Other organizations that have agreed to support the campaign include the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and the Capital Children’s Museum, where the event was held.

“It is our hope that early intervention with sleep education messages will help our youngsters understand the importance of sleep so that they will incorporate good sleep habits into their lifestyles at an early point in their lives,” said Frederick Brown, associated director for professional services at NAESP.

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