Healthy Sleep Tips for Back to School

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When we prepare our children for the start of a new school year, we typically focus on school supplies and clothes, but we need to take a closer look at our children’s’ sleep habits as well.  Studies have shown that poor sleep negatively affects academic performance.  Therefore, establishing healthy sleep habits should be part of the back to school checklist. Depending on the age of your child, most school-age children will need anywhere from 9 to 13 hours of sleep a night.

Often the longer days and the summer-time schedules keep children up later at night and many have been sleeping much later into the mornings as well.  When August arrives and school starts, it can be hard for many children to start waking early for school. Therefore, it is recommended that a consistent sleep schedule is maintained as much as possible throughout the year, including summertime.

If your child has been sleeping all sorts of odd hours this summer, what can you start doing now? Here are some tips that can help you with getting your child ready for school.

1. Ideally about one month prior to the start of school, start to change your child’s sleep schedule. A gradual change of the sleep schedule is most effective. For example, if your child has been going to sleep at midnight, it would be hard for him/her to suddenly get to sleep at 10 p.m. the night before the first day of school. Therefore, in this particular case, one month before the start of school, have your child start going to bed at 11:30 p.m. and wake the same time every morning. During the day, your child should not nap (assuming they are of school age where they do not nap at school). Continue this schedule for about three days and then set the bedtime another half-hour earlier. Keep wake times the same and avoid naps during this whole process. Eventually, your child will start to sleep earlier and wake up refreshed.

2. Turn off all electronic devices 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to the desired bedtime. This includes TV, loud/fast music, computers, iPADs, phones, video games, etc. Do not expose your child to bright light or loud noises during this time as it inhibits the brain to naturally allow sleep.

Note: Occasionally, your child may not easily fall asleep despite the above measures. He or she may need a sleep aid temporarily to help him/her get to sleep earlier. Discuss this with your pediatrician or a board certified sleep professional.

3. Observe your child while he/she is sleeping. Parental observation is crucial. Does he/she snore? Is he/she restless? Is he/she still sleepy despite what you think is an adequate amount of sleep? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then your child may have an underlying sleep disorder and it is recommended to bring these concerns to your pediatrician or a board certified sleep professional. It has been reported that children who snore or who have restless legs syndrome are more likely to have the characteristics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Therefore, improving a child’s sleep may improve many problems that he/she may face during the regular school day. Also, it is unusual for a child above age 5 to nap. This may signify the quantity and/or quality of sleep is poor and should be assessed.

4. Avoid heavy meals and exercise after 8 PM.

5. Sleep in a cool, dark and quiet room.

6. During the school year, keep a consistent sleep schedule. There should not be more than 1.5 hours difference between the weekday and weekend bedtimes and wake times.

Hopefully these tips will help you and your child have an easy transition back into proper sleep for the school year.

FusionSleep helps children, teens and adults get a better night’s sleep.  As the authority in Sleep Medicine with sleep clinics throughout Atlanta, FusionSleep diagnoses and treats sleep apnea, snoring, insomnia & over 80 other sleep disorders.  If you are concerned that you or someone you love may have a sleep disorder, please contact us for a consultation.