NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It’s no secret that we’re a nation of sleep deprived adults.

It turns out our kids are sleep deprived too.

In fact, almost half of all children aren’t getting enough sleep at night. A new program is aiming to fix that with teddy bears.

When we don’t get enough sleep, we might get cranky or be less productive at work. But when young kids don’t get enough sleep, they can have problems concentrating and retaining information learned at school. That can set them on a path to low achievement.

Turns out, teddy bears can help, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

The 3-year-old students prepare their teddy bears for bedtime at a Harlem preschool. It’s part of a sleep program funded by the National Institutes of Health. The curriculum is being taught to 500 children at 22 Head Start preschools in New York.

“The overall goal is to promote healthy sleep in early childhood,” said Dr. Karen Bonuck of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore.

Dr. Bonuck is leading the program. She says 25 to 50 percent of children are not getting at least the 10 hours of sleep, including naps, they need each day. Bonuck says by teaching the teddy bears the importance of preparing for and getting a good night sleep, kids will model that behavior at home.

“Children who are really overtired, they’re not ready to learn, they’re not able to get along well with others, they’re just not able to absorb information,” Bonuck said.

As part of the program, parents are given an orientation, learning techniques to help kids sleep better. Techniques like reading a book before bed to relax instead of watching television or playing a computer game.

“I didn’t really know how important sleeping is until I took the class,” said parent Patricia O’Shaughnessy. Her 3-year-old son is taking in the program. She says he is now sticking to his 8 p.m. bedtime and sleeping longer and better alongside his teddy bear.

The National Institutes of Health, which is looking to expand the sleep program to preschools across the country, says that screen time – TV, computer and video games including educational ones – are too stimulating and should be avoided right before bedtime.

 

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