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PJ program helping Atlanta kids get better sleep

Pajama Program kids are matched with a volunteer reading buddy, and receive a book of their own and a pair of PJs to take home.

ATLANTA — Health experts say the COVID pandemic has led to a lot of sleepless nights for kids and parents. 

According to the CDC, fewer kids than ever are getting adequate sleep. 

The remote learning, stress, and anxiety have all dealt a blow to many families' normal bedtime routine. 

A nonprofit called Pajama Program is working to tackle the problem. 

The program matches children with local volunteers who read aloud with them. The children are are then rewarded with a free book of their own, and a pair of PJs to take home. The overall goal is to enforce the importance of a healthy and consistent bedtime routine.

“Our mission is to promote and support a comforting bed time routine for all children to help them thrive," Douna Hunter, Senior Program Manager at Pajama Program Atlanta said. "Just like nutrition and exercise is important, so is sleep. If a child is not sleeping well, then everything else is goes by the wayside."

Hunter is helping the program reach as many Atlanta-area kids as possible, particularly in underserved communities. 

"We're talking anything from housing insecurity, low income families, families that may experience different levels of instability," Hunter explained. "To no fault of their own a lot of times those communities is where we see sleep that is less scheduled, rhythmic and routine."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, poor sleep in early childhood has been linked to immune system problems, anxiety and depression, even future cardiovascular risks like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

And with the pandemic disrupting so many of our routines, the CDC has reported a concerning trend: only 4 in 10 middle schoolers and 3 in 10 high schoolers are getting enough sleep. 

“The amount of stress and trauma our kids have experienced [during COVID], the routine is just so important," Elizabeth Woods, ELA and Social Studies Instructional Coach at Fickett Elementary School said. 

“The most impactful things often are the smallest things we don't even think about doing," she said. "It's just pajamas, but it's like, oh my gosh, it's my pajamas. It's my book. It's my reading buddy.”

The Pajama Program has had to adapt during the pandemic to continue serving the area, ensuring all children have what they need for great days and good nights. 

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