Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Back to School Sleep Schedule

With a new school year starting for many this month, your kids are now used to staying up late as well as sleeping in during their summer break; they would have a tough time waking up if school were to start tomorrow. It is NOW time to start their back-to-school sleep schedule, so they are getting enough sleep to feel refreshed and well rested for their first day. Keeping up with school work and after school activities is hard enough without fighting afternoon sleepiness caused by not getting enough sleep at night. Lack of sleep can cause your child to develop learning difficulties, lack of focus and delayed physical reactions in addition to showing signs of ADD (attention deficit disorder) and weight gain. Your child needs to ease into this sleep schedule gradually at least two weeks before school starts so they can fall asleep easy by the time school starts. Keeping healthy sleep habits throughout the school year and even on the weekends will help them wake up with the amount of sleep they need for their age. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children between the ages of five and 11 require 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Since children older than age five usually don't nap at school, this means that they need 10 to 11 hours of sleep at night. Children ages 12 to 18 generally require 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep, just a little more than required by those 19 and older.  See How Many Hours of Sleep do Teenagers Need for more information.

[caption id="attachment_1456" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Back to School Sleep Schedule- Avoid Afternoon Sleepiness in School"][/caption]

An easy way to smooth transmission from staying up till 11pm to 9pm is to add 15 minute increments each night until you get them in bed at the desired time. An hour before they retire you need to establish a bedtime ritual that will allow them to wind down, such as taking a bath or reading a book. Limit activities that excite them physically and mentally like playing outside late, running around the house, watching scary/action movies or playing video games. If they want a late night snack stick to something light and avoid caffeine. Their bedroom should be cozy, cool, dark, quiet and pet free. Keep in mind that the time they need to be sleeping is different from their bedtime, because it take 10-20 minutes for them to actually fall asleep, so they have to go to bed a little earlier. For example, if a 13 year old needs to get up at 6am to get ready for school and they need 8.5 hours of sleep that means they should be asleep by 9:30pm and in bed by 9:10pm.

If you don’t want your child to have a painful transition back to a new school schedule now is the time to take a positive hands-on approach to change your child’s bedtime routine. The sooner you make this transition the less your child will experience the shock of getting up at 6am. Part of their sleep routine can be deciding what clothes they want to wear the next day and getting their school supplies/books organized or lunch made, so they don’t have to do or think about these things in the morning.  This also allows them to sleep in a little later, which is a win, win for both of you.

[caption id="attachment_1457" align="alignright" width="285" caption="Back to School Sleep Schedule- Light prevents Melatonin production which will keep them awake"][/caption]

The main objective to a sleep schedule is to gradually get your child to fall asleep earlier so that waking up earlier in the morning comes more naturally without having to wake them or having them rely on an alarm clock. Remember light affects their sleep-wake cycle as it depletes their ability to produce melatonin which naturally controls their internal body clock. At night it helps them fall asleep when it starts to get dark out. So light at night can disrupt their efforts in falling asleep. Because school programs start early in the year and it isn’t dark until later at night (and it may still be light out when elementary children go to bed), it is important when you make a change in their bedtime schedule to include reducing light exposure to help their mind and body to unwind and get ready to fall asleep.

Going back to school doesn't have to be tug of war when trying to get your child to bed when you start early in transitioning them gradually into a healthy sleep schedule which goal is for a healthy start to a new school year. Starting a new year in school is hard enough for children without having them fight sleep during the day or battling with them to get out of bed in the morning.

The content provided in Back to School Sleep Schedule is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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