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R.E.M. (Rest. Educate. Motivate.) Sleep Education Program

Many school children do not get the sleep they need for proper learning, health, and overall behavior. The R.E.M. (Rest. Educate. Motivate.) Sleep Education Program fills the missing gap of sleep education, working with low-income and impoverished kids and families in southeast Michigan schools. R.E.M. teaches good sleep sense and provides aids to create a proper sleep environment, such as sleeping bags, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. 
Michigan Nightlight: What really differentiates this program? 
Sweet Dreamzzz Director of Sleep Programs Ann Raftery: Our concept is so simple yet so underestimated. Sleep is free to everyone but overlooked by most. This program teaches children and their families about a critical solution to many of their daily life challenges. All of the following can improve with the proper amount of sleep: learning, weight control, behavior, general health, and overall well-being. We are not aware of any other program that has such a comprehensive approach to sleep -- reaching students, teachers and parents -- within the
Sleep is free to everyone but overlooked by most.
United States.
What are the keys to success for your program?
We have a wonderful staff that keeps the programs running smoothly and also partner with a wide variety of funders, community groups, and organizations who support us in providing the sleep kits to the children. We have a group of 14 trained volunteer sleeper teachers who teach the children healthy sleep habits. They receive the one-hour teacher training in house and partner with another trained sleeper teacher for their initial presentations. They are observed by our director of sleep programs, me, a certified teacher holding a master of arts in curriculum and design, for proper program and content delivery. Each elementary school program requires five to 10 sleeper teachers, and we currently deliver one to two of those programs per month. That equates to about 500 children each month. These volunteers mean everything to our program as they are the ones who are directly teaching the children. We are always looking for additional “sleeper teachers” to support out programs.
What existing challenges remain with this program and how do you plan to overcome them?
It is always a challenge to come up with the funding to support the ongoing requests for our program. We have a waitlist of over 5,000 children. The other challenge is to support the children by educating their parents. We have Parent Sleep Education Workshops that we offer to the schools. The bigger the parent turnout at these workshops, the greater chance for
We have Parent Sleep Education Workshops that we offer to the schools. The bigger the parent turnout at these workshops, the greater chance for continuity and success for the child.
continuity and success for the child.
We try and encourage attendance by providing incentives to the parents. We have offered brand new sleeping bags and sleep kit items and that has helped to increase the number of parents attending the training. We also point out the fact that, if we can get their child to bed earlier and easier, the parents can have more time for themselves and get themselves to bed earlier!
How do you organize the resources needed to make this program happen?
Sweet Dreamzzz utilizes our funding to order brand new sleeping bags, totes and night shirts for the children. We collect beanie babies, toothbrushes, toothpaste, crayons, socks, and reading books from community groups to complete the sleep kit. Volunteers assist in packing the sleep kits either in advance or at the actual elementary school where the program is taking place. The sleeping bags are directly shipped to the school, and we have volunteers assist in unloading the 500 bags into the school. The sleep kits are delivered to the school by Two Men and A Truck, who volunteer their time and energy to Sweet Dreamzzz. The children receive their sleep kits after their sleep presentation by the sleeper teachers. We have volunteers who help us distribute the sleeping bags and totes to the children as they enter the staged area in the school – normally the gym area – and a wonderful staff that keeps the flow of all of this going.
How do you innovate programming? Where do the ideas come from? How do you know if they are going to work?
We know our content and that is the simple solution of sleep. The important changes we make are all a result of what we experience when we are delivering our programs. If we can become more effective in our training, we change it. If we can become more efficient in our processing, we change that too. Because we are a pretty lean organization, we are able to easily make necessary adjustments. 

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  • Sweet Dreamzzz
    Sweet Dreamzzz is committed to improving the health, well-being, and academic performance of at-risk school-age children and their parents by providing sleep education and bedtime essentials. Sweet Dreamzzz has several sleep programs in southeast ...


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