January 15, 2021 by John Fernandez
Back-to-School Sleep Tips
New uniforms, backpacks and classroom supplies – these are some of the staples on most back-to-school lists. But a consistent sleep schedule that ensures kids get enough rest is also an important item to include in preparations for the new school year.
According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, school-age children 6-12 years old need between 9 and 12 hours of sleep a day. Teenagers 13-18 years old should get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses the new recommendations. Studies show that children who get enough sleep have improved attention spans, learning, memory, emotional regulation and overall quality of life. Children who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to incur injuries and have high blood pressure, obesity and depression.
David Seiden, M.D., medical director of Baptist Sleep Center at Pembroke Pines, advises parents make a gradual shift back to regular bedtimes and wake-up times before the start of the new school year. Helping them go to sleep 20 to 30 minutes earlier, then waking them up earlier by the same amount of time, will help reach the goals of getting enough sleep and being able to wake up in time for school.
Promoting Good Sleep Habits
Adhering to proper sleep hygiene is key to overcoming sleep challenges associated with settling back into a school routine. Dr. Seiden’s other healthy sleep recommendations for children and teens include:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time consistently helps regulate the body’s circadian clock. Strive to stick to the schedule on weekends as well, allowing only one or two hours leeway if necessary.
- Create a sleep-inducing bedroom environment. Start with the basics of a dark and quiet room, comfortable temperature and a comfortable bed.
- Reduce stimuli and distractions at least one hour before bedtime. Dim the lights and turn off TVs, computers and electronics. “The stimuli and light from these devices are wake-promoting and interrupt the neuropathways to the brain that help induce sleep,” Dr. Seiden said.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Promote quiet time to help your child unwind. A bath or shower followed by reading or story time are effective activities.
- Avoid exercise and heavy physical activity too close to bedtime. A drop in the body’s core temperature is a key to achieving deep sleep, and it takes time for the body to cool down after physical activity. It’s best to engage these activities about 5 hours prior to the desired bedtime.
- Expose to natural sunlight as soon as possible upon awakening in the morning. Step outside or near a window without sunglasses to gain the full effects.
- Limit caffeine intake. Adolescents and teens are drinking more caffeinated beverages these days, and the increased caffeine intake is affecting their sleep, says Dr. Seiden.
Parents can follow these healthy sleep guidelines, too, to help set a good example for children and reinforce the importance of adequate and healthy sleep for a successful school year.