School will be starting soon. It’s time to help get your kids on a healthy back to school sleep schedule.
Kids need more sleep than adults. Children ages 6 to 12 years old need 10 to 11 hours of sleep at night. Teenagers need at least nine hours of sleep.
It’s important to get enough sleep because chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to poor school performance, behavioral, developmental and mood problems, weight gain and obesity. Drowsy teens who get behind the wheel of a car can cause a deadly accident.
Here’s a sleep checklist to start working on now:
• At least two weeks before school starts, set a regular bedtime and wake-up time. Kids with bedtimes before 10 p.m. are much more likely to get enough sleep than kids with later bedtimes. If necessary, the schedule can be adjusted earlier at a gradual pace (about 15 minutes every two days) to ease the transition.
• In the last days of summer, wake your kids at the time they will need to be getting up for school. Emphasize activity and bright light in the morning; these help to train the brain to be wide awake in the morning. For example, send them outside to play, rather than allowing them to sit in front of a TV set – it’s better for their brain and their body!
• Be consistent with your children’s sleep schedules, even on the weekends.
• Establish a relaxing evening routine. Avoid exercising or stimulating activities in the last few hours before bedtime.
• Create a sleep environment that is cool, dark, quiet and comfortable.
• Limit caffeine, especially after lunchtime.
• Avoid having a TV or computer in the bedroom and turn them off at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
• Make sleep a priority in your family and set a good example.
Good sleep habits set the stage for active learning and better performance in school. We wish you and your kids good luck as they prepare to kick off the year. Many sleep issues are treatable. If you are concerned your child might have a sleep disorder please call us.
–Nan Norins, MD, pediatric sleep specialist, Children’s Sleep Center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.