Counting the Value of Sleep

Do you remember when you were a kid and you so badly wanted to be a grownup? You’d dream of a time when you could eat whatever you wanted at every meal, stay up as late as you desired, and of course, you’d never have any homework – you could do what you wanted with your evenings.

If you read that and thought, “Ha!”, congratulations- you’re officially a grownup.

As we age, it becomes easier for our minds to drift to the worries of day-to-day life. Thoughts of the bills we need to pay, unfinished tasks at home and work, ours or loved ones’ ailments, social and political unrest, saving for retirement and/or college, paying for a new set of tires, struggling to juggle relationships and so much more come hurling our way in the blink of an eye. It comes with the territory of adulthood.

Sleep is the road map of that territory. We’ve all heard that we need to sleep roughly eight hours a day. Put another way, for every two hours we’re awake, we’ll need one hour of sleep. It’s how the brain recovers from these everyday stresses and allows the mind and body to rest. Sleep is an essential and indispensable part of our overall health. If you’ve ever experienced a sleep deficit, you know how crucial this time of mental and physical rest is to everyday functioning.

Adults aren’t the only ones who benefit from sleep, however. If you’ve ever taken care of a kid, you’ve seen this up close and personal. If a young child is overagitated or especially ornery, what is it we say they need? Sleep.

Sleep is so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics waits until kids are 13 years old to set eight hours as the minimum sleep recommendation. But why is that? Studies have shown that kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to high blood pressure, obesity and even depression.1

Unfortunately, there are children across the city who do not have a safe, appropriate place that is all their own to lay their head at night. After learning this, a former board member and staff member got together to create the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City’s Sleep to Succeed program which launched in 2015.

Sleep to Succeed strives to eliminate at least one barrier to children getting the sleep they need to be happy and healthy: a bed of their own. With the assistance of the Oklahoma City Housing Authority (OCHA), we identify children living within the OCHA communities who do not currently have a permanent bed, or whose bedding is broken, soiled or shared by multiple siblings. Through annual and now quarterly deliveries, the Y, along with numerous volunteers and community partners, is able to provide complete bed sets (frame, box spring, mattress, sheets and pillow) free of charge to children from low socio-economic status (SES) families.

Children from low-income families are at a higher risk for sleep disorders and insomnia due to various factors. These factors include pre-sleep worries like food insecurity, job insecurity for parents, domestic violence, and environmental factors such as crowded spaces, excessive noise, and lack of functional utilities. For many of these children, their sleep patterns are often interrupted by bed-sharing or lack of appropriate bedding.

YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City’s Executive Director of Social Responsibility, Lacy Kendrick, said that “[w]hile we cannot erase a child’s pre-sleep worries, the Y can lessen some of the environmental factors that keep a child from getting a good night’s rest. Through Sleep to Succeed, each child is given a bed of their own that is the right size for their growing body. The goal of the program is both short and long term: to provide beds for children in the present, so we can set them up for a better and brighter future.”

Earlier this month, 70 volunteers including Y staff and board members, leadership from Oklahoma Human Services, the OCHA and community members gathered to deliver 128 bed sets to Oklahoma City children who needed them. With 13 personal vehicles, three Morningstar Storage Edmond moving trucks and two Mathis Brothers trailers, the bed sets were delivered in 3.5 hours.

This year marked Sleep to Succeed’s 769th bed delivered. It’s easy to tally the numbers of a program – the volunteers, the hours logged, the vehicles driven, the miles covered, the beds delivered and the kids and households who have benefited. What’s incalculable is the importance of those numbers; the sum of what they accomplish. We can never know the number of additional hours a child slept or the improvement in overall sleep quality. We can rest assured, however, that the net effect is a positive one.

There’s so much worry and stress that exists in our day-to-day lives, but knowing a child is getting a good night’s sleep shouldn’t be one of them. We want every kid to rest and to dream – to think up all the possibilities of what life will be like once they are the grownups.

If you’d like to give directly to Sleep to Succeed, you can do so here. A gift of $100 provides a full bed set for a local kid.

The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City partners with the Oklahoma City Housing Authority to identify children living on their properties who are either without a bed or in need of a new one. All recipients are selected based on observed need during routine inspections by property managers and maintenance staff. This program is only open to select OCHA communities at this time and is not open to the general public. If you or anyone in your family is in need of a bed, please call 2-1-1 to be directed to agencies that may be able to assist you.

1https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/The-importance-of-sleep-for-kids

Written by Kelsey Pagonis, [email protected]

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