The AASM Foundation is joining the AASM in recognition of its first-ever Student Sleep Health Week, which aims to drive awareness of the importance of healthy sleep for students of all ages to learn, grow and thrive. Since its founding, the AASM Foundation has offered a variety of awards to support projects that positively impact sleep health in communities across the country. The following projects have all made significant strides in improving the sleep health of all students, from preschoolers to adolescents.


Sweet Dreamzzz is a nonprofit organization committed to improving children’s health, well-being and academic performance by providing sleep education and bedtime essentials to economically disadvantaged students and their families. In 2015, their AASM Foundation Focused Projects Award, Early Childhood Sleep Education Program: Long-Distance Program Delivery & Enhanced Parent Outreach with Brooklyn, NY Head Start Center, aimed to provide 160 children with the sleep awareness, practical bedtime tools and knowledgeable adult support necessary for a good night’s sleep.

The Early Childhood Sleep Education Program (ECSEP) was conducted with 75 parent attendees from two preschool sites. Parents learned about the importance of sleep and bedtime routines for preschoolers and were also provided with educational tools to establish bedtime routines, such as charts, stickers, magnets and bedtime essentials such as blankets, books and toothpaste. Of the parents who completed a post-workshop questionnaire, 100% stated an intention to discuss healthy sleep habits with their children, as well as utilize tips and tools from the workshop, to support their child’s sleep. A follow-up survey completed one month after the ECSEP workshop also revealed that 100% of parents had implemented at least one new tactic for healthy sleep for their child, and 76% of respondents noted that their child was getting more and/or better sleep and the child’s attitude toward bedtime had improved.


Mirja Quante, MD, is the director of the pediatric sleep lab in the department of neonatology at the University of Tuebingen in Germany. In 2016, she received the AASM Foundation Focused Projects Award with co-investigator Jessie Bakker, PhD, Senior Clinical Development Scientist at Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care, and Lecturer in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Their project Identifying Motivating Factors for Healthy Sleep in At-Risk Adolescents, examined mechanisms and strategies that adolescents adopt to improve sleep, as well as possible methods for promoting healthy sleep habits in this population. “Youth acknowledge the importance of sleep,” said Dr. Quante, “and they seemed to be aware of the role of sleep on physical, psychological, psychosocial and emotional functions.”

The project utilized focus group discussions with adolescents ages 14-18 from low- and middle-class income backgrounds in diverse neighborhoods in Boston. The project also used a smartphone sleep app to gain understanding of barriers and motivating factors in healthy sleep for teens. Among the student participants in this project, several common reasons for deficient sleep emerged and included academic demands, disrupted circadian rhythms, consumption of caffeinated beverages, electronics, and environmental, emotional and cognitive factors.

Findings from this project highlight the importance of everyday factors that youth encounter. In order to curtail these factors and its impact on getting a good night’s rest, Dr. Quante’s tips to foster healthy sleep in adolescents include having at least an hour of screen-free time before going to bed, consuming less caffeine and keeping one’s bedroom dark, cool, quiet and comfortable.


Reut Gruber, PhD, is the Director of the Attention, Behaviour and Sleep Laboratory at the Douglas Research Centre in Montreal. Her AASM Foundation 2012 Educational Projects Award, Integration of Sleep Education into a School-based Obesity Prevention Program, focused on developing and evaluating a school-based program: Healthy Nights, Healthy Days. This program was designed to reduce the risk of childhood obesity by increasing total sleep time and developing healthy habits with food and physical activity.

The Healthy Nights, Healthy Days program was delivered by classroom teachers to a total of 194 students. 46 of these students participated in the research component of the program, which monitored students on sleep duration, dietary intake, physical activity and sleep hygiene. After eight weeks of program participation, these students showed an increase in reported physical activity, a significant decrease in screen time, and a decrease in the mean BMI of the intervention group children.

While implementation on a larger scale is needed to generalize the study’s findings, the program was successful and well-received by teachers, students and their parents.

“Health, sleep, physical activity, nutrition and screen time are interrelated,” said Dr. Gruber, “it is possible to improve these behaviors.”


Salim Surani, MD, is a clinical pulmonologist in Corpus Christi, TX. As a 2011 recipient of the AASM Foundation Humanitarian Project Award, Dr. Surani implemented Project KNIGHTS (Keep Nurturing and Inspiring Good Habits in Teen Sleep) with the goal of educating teenagers about the significance of sleep, sleep hygiene and the risks of inadequate sleep to decrease obesity and accident rates among that age group.

To connect with adolescents, the program developed the first-ever 3D animated movie on sleep deprivation and sleep education. The film was scripted by students from middle and high school and, to date, has reached over 51,000 students. Through the KNIGHTS program, Dr. Surani and his team learned that the majority of adolescents do not get the recommended amount of sleep due to intrinsic factors such as puberty and extrinsic factors such as school start time.
Adolescents also have phase-delayed syndrome, which results in going to bed late and waking late. Over time, this habit of sleep deprivation can lead to poor grades, increased risk of motor vehicle accidents and obesity.

Seeing that both intrinsic and extrinsic factors play a role in teens getting the recommended amount of sleep, Dr. Surani’s advice to combat sleep problems in teenagers includes regular exercise, as well as reducing noise, light and excessive hot and cold temperatures in the bedroom.