Promoting the AASM vision of achieving optimal health through better sleep requires a multi-faceted approach to raise public awareness of the importance of healthy sleep.

As part of our outreach, we must help the next generation understand that sleep is one of the keys to individual and public health.  For years the American Sleep Medicine Foundation has conducted an annual high school essay contest to inspire an interest in sleep medicine and sleep research among teens.

This year the ASMF took a new approach by converting the essay competition into a video contest, giving teens an opportunity to use their creative skills to tell a story about the importance of sleep.  Recently the ASMF announced the grand-prize winner of the 2013 contest:  Jasper Lown, who is a senior at Wheaton-Warrenville South High School in suburban Chicago.

The contest, which generated 23 video submissions, is just one example of how we must adopt new methods to reach a generation that has grown up with webcams and Facebook.  Another example is the No Sleep Kids website that was developed recently by a 4th-grade student as part of a school project.

The student had contacted the AASM to speak with a sleep expert about sleep and common sleep disorders.  One of the AASM’s media spokespersons, Dr. William Kohler, was gracious enough to spend some time with her on the phone, answering her questions about sleep.

Her website features creative touches such as hand-drawn coloring pages and a series of photos that use her doll to illustrate sleep disorders.  It’s a great reminder that we can never start too soon when introducing children to the fascinating subject of sleep.

Recognizing that public education begins early, the AASM offers two children’s picture books and classroom resources for teachers.  Soon we also will be releasing the children’s books as interactive apps for smart phones, tablets and e-readers.

If we want to see widespread improvement in our nation’s sleep health, we must inspire children and teens to develop healthy sleep habits that will last a lifetime.

M. Safwan Badr, MD