With a new school year just around the corner, it will soon be time to get back into the routine of going to bed and getting up early.
Staying up or sleeping in over a period of time resets our body’s internal clock, also known as circadian rhythm. That’s why it’s important to give your kids a few days to return to their regular sleep schedule before the first day back to school.
“It’s hard to change our circadian rhythm quickly,” said Greg Omlor, MD, director of Pulmonary Medicine and the Akron Children’s Hospital Sleep Center. “Kids need at least a few days before the start of the school year to adjust.”
If your child’s schedule has varied significantly from his usual school routine and he’s staying up or sleeping in much later than normal, it will take as long as five days to get back on schedule.
Kids also need much more sleep than the typical eight hours recommended for adults. School age kids require 12-13 hours each night, while those in middle school need about 10-11 hours. Teens, especially younger teens, should get nine hours.
How can you tell if your child is getting enough sleep? In addition to the obvious signs of sleepiness, kids who are not well rested may:
- Have trouble focusing or paying attention
- Be overexcited or jumpy
- Be irritable or fussy
- Have difficulty controlling impulses or emotions
Dr. Omlor recommends these five strategies to ensure your child is rested and ready to take on a busy school day:
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine that prepares the body to settle down. This can include reading, taking a bath or shower, having a light snack or listening to soothing music. Avoid music that is hard driving or fast.
- Make sure the room is dark, especially if your child will be going to bed while it’s still light out.
- Avoid caffeine after dinner. This includes chocolate and chocolate milk.
- Don’t allow TV in the bedroom or watching too close to bedtime, as many programs can get kids excited or upset, making it difficult to wind down. The same goes for video and computer games.
- Create a soothing bedroom environment. If there’s a lot of noise from traffic or a barking dog, a fan or white noise machine can drown out distracting sounds.