Getting Kids’ Sleep Back on Track for School

Relaxed bedtime routines and inconsistent sleep schedules during the summer can make it difficult to get children back on track when the new school year begins. Getting enough sleep contributes to a child’s positive school performance, good behavior and happiness.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends school-age children and teenagers get between 8 and 11 hours of sleep each night.

David Seiden, M.D., medical director of Baptist Sleep Center at Pembroke Pines, recommends parents make a gradual shift back to regular bedtimes and wake-up times before the start of the new school year. Making them go to sleep 20 to 30 minutes earlier, then waking them up 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 in to the back to 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 4 to 5 hours before 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.
  • Expose to natural sunlight within an hour of waking up 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.

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