Back-to-school sleep tips

For many kids, the summer months mean late nights and even later mornings. When the school year starts again, it can be painful to go back to an earlier schedule. Instead of taking in all the new information they’re receiving at school, kids may be struggling to stay awake and focus. In order to avoid running into this kind of scenario, here are a few things you can do to help your child make a smooth transition:

  1. Start adjusting your routine before the first day of school. Have your child wake up 15 or 30 minutes earlier each day until you are waking up at the same time you will need to on the first day of school.
  2. Have your child wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends! Having a different schedule every day is the same as constantly traveling to different time zones and is termed “social jet lag.” It can have significant effects on your child’s school performance.
  3. If your child is waking up earlier, he or she will need to go to bed earlier as well. As you adjust your child’s wake-up time, adjust his or her bedtime accordingly.
  4. Make sure the sleep environment is conducive to sleep. The bedroom should be dark, quiet and cool (around 68° F).
  5. Don’t allow children to use electronics—including TVs, phones, video games or tablets—for at least two hours before bedtime.
  6. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. For children 6-12 years old, the recommended amount of sleep is between 9-12 hours. For teens (13-18 years old), the recommendation is 8-10 hours.

Studies show that childhood sleep deprivation is associated with …

  • Poor school performance
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Increased depressive symptoms
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Athletic injuries
  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents

For some, school starts times are very early, making it difficult for students to get enough sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has made a position statement that encourages middle and high school start times of 8:30 a.m. or later. This gives teens a better opportunity to get enough sleep on a regular basis. In fact, delaying middle school and high school times has been associated with multiple benefits, including …

  • Longer total sleep time
  • Reduced daytime sleepiness
  • Increased engagement in class activities
  • Reduced first-hour tardiness and absences
  • Reduced depressive symptoms and irritability
  • Improved reaction time

Help your kids have the best chance of success by encouraging healthy sleep habits. If your school start times are making it difficult to get enough sleep on a regular basis, be an advocate for later school start times, too.

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