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Simpletons Of Sleep

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What if the FDA approved a new pill that reduced the number of days your kid was sick? That one pill also improves their mood and raises athletic performance to new levels. Also, it boosts test scores and delivers a better sense of well-being. 

Do you want to know more? Of course, you would. 

According to Web MD this is all possible and the best part? It’s not a pill, it’s sleep. 

Many kids are walking around like zombies, half asleep, shuffling their feet, and mumbling to themselves. They stay up late staring at their phones, talking to friends on social media, and watching YouTube videos.

Gamers are smashing buttons on controllers until 3 a.m., screaming at their team, “I SAID MEET AT THE WAYPOINT, YOU IDIOTS!”

“I have a 13-year old that is extraordinarily cranky and he’s not able to process things as well when he doesn’t get enough sleep,” said Carmen Cunningham, a mother of three. 

Carmen isn’t alone. 

Most kids are clueless about sleep health. They don’t understand that lack of sleep can inhibit growth and prevent the brain from flushing toxins that build up during the day. They end up tired and unprepared for the next day of school. 

On top of all this, many parents allow their kids to drink caffeine late in the day with no restrictions. This stimulant limits critical REM sleep cycles that deliver the restoration our bodies need. 

According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, “The magnitude of reduction in total sleep time suggests that caffeine taken six hours before bedtime has important disruptive effects on sleep and provides empirical support for sleep hygiene recommendations to refrain from substantial caffeine use for a minimum of six hours prior to bedtime.”  

Why would moms and dads allow their kids to keep crushing cans of Coca-Cola at 8 p.m.? Because many don’t know any better.

Sure, you may recognize sleep is a big deal in your life because when you don’t get enough your day sucks. But what do you really know about sleep and how to improve it? How many cycles of sleep are there? What is the most important phase of sleep that rejuvenates you and how do you get more of it? What are the biggest sleep disruptors and how do you fix those? What is the half-life of caffeine and why should you care? 

Most of us can have an intelligent conversation about our diet. You probably know the foods you should eat and how many calories to take in. And you likely know a bit about exercise and the role it plays in keeping your body in good working condition. Many people understand how long to exercise each day, why cardio matters, and the importance of stretching to stay flexible in older age. But when it comes to the subject of sleep, most don’t know much of anything. 

Why are we clueless when it comes to sleep health? 

Remember Carmen, our mother of three? Her son Tye is best buddies with my son Nick and they are teammates on the Rogers High School Mountaineers Varsity Basketball team.  I asked Carmen how she learned about sleep as a kid. She told me her parents really didn’t teach her about sleep, they just told her to go to bed. 

“Until I got into the workplace, there was no one that told me why sleep was good for me or why I needed sleep other than to not be sleepy the next day,” said Carmen. 

Her mom and dad didn’t know much about the topic. Did she learn something valuable about sleep when she was in school? 

“I had gym in school where we did calisthenics on a regular basis, and in terms of food we talked about food in some of my science classes, but that was pretty much it, there was no formal education around the topic of sleep.”  

Is Carmen an outlier, or does her experience sum up the reality for most? We don’t teach our kids about sleep because we were never taught about sleep. 

I wanted to dig deeper so I reached out to my son’s basketball coach and physical education teacher, Lamont Frazier. I was hoping he could shed light on what kids are being taught in schools today about sleep. 

I asked him if teachers are talking to students about sleep? “No, it’s not happening in schools because it isn’t something that is viewed as part of the curriculum. I think if it is mentioned it might be mentioned in a health or biology class. But as far as sleep patterns, but as far as the ramifications for a lack thereof, that is something that is definitely not stressed.”  

This is hard to believe. Who suffers when kids aren’t sleeping well? Teachers do, that’s for sure, because they see the damage on a daily basis. (Audio clip at 5:40) “These kids are lethargic and there is a big problem with the lack of detail. The mental conditioning is not there because they can’t concentrate longer than 2-10 minutes,” said Frazier. 

Poor sleep has major mental and physical implications on kids but it doesn’t seem anyone is addressing the issue in a significant way. Parents aren’t talking about sleep because many don’t value it, or know enough to offer advice. Teachers don’t cover it because it’s not part of the curriculum. Sure, there are books that address sleep health, but how many people understand its importance? Even those that do, how many of them are proactive in looking for the solution? So where does that leave us as an industry? With a very big opportunity, that’s where.

Which customer is going to spend more money with you? The customer that needs to replace an uncomfortable mattress and visits your store after seeing a commercial for 50 percent off. Or, the customer who saw your website, ads, and a social media post celebrating why great sleep is important to quality of life. That customer visits your store and meets a well-trained salesperson who asks questions to uncover sleep problems. The RSA provides education on how to overcome those problems and how your products can help. If the mattress industry understands the gap in sleep knowledge and how to close it, and we take it upon ourselves to serve customers with sleep education, we will sell more products and make more money. How do we do that?

Visit local schools and give talks to kids about the importance of sleep. Go to a local Chamber of Commerce meeting and give a 20-minute talk about the importance of sleep on work productivity. Meet with the Mom’s Club in your town and talk about the impact of sleep on kids and how to make it better. Host clinics or guest speakers in your stores to talk about how sleep affects athletes, students, and night shift workers. Being part of the solution positions you as the authority in your market. When you do that, your sleep solution recommendations carry more weight than the guy just selling beds. This will result in bigger tickets, a better bottom line, and happier customers.

According to researcher Ramond Rosen, during four years of medical school, most doctors get less than two hours of training in the field of sleep. If you read two books about sleep, you will be more knowledgeable than most medical professionals. Establishing yourself or your business as a sleep authority doesn’t take much. And the benefit to you and your customer will be significant.

At the end of my interview with Carmen, I asked her what would happen if we did a better job of educating kids about the importance of sleep? 

“It could accelerate their potential. I know how much money we are spending at my work, to make sure people’s brains are functioning in a way that will help us advance what we are trying to do as a company. We are attending workshops to accomplish this and a big part of that is to help us understand the impact of sleep. If our kids were taught that at a younger age, it’s pretty amazing what they could do as opposed to learning it all at my age.” 

Let’s be in that business. The business of helping people be amazing. It would be so much more fun and profitable than selling mattresses, don’t you think?

Interested in learning more about sleep? Check out the links below to educate yourself and better serve your customers.

Four Different Styles Of Sleep Types by Dr. Michael Breus.

How To Help Your Kids Get A Good Night’s Sleep by Stanford Children’s Health.

Sleep Basics by the Cleveland Clinic.

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