Back to School Means Back to Bedtime

4 tips for back-to-school sleep habits

parent putting child to bed

Mention the word “bedtime” in the summer and you’re sure to get groans from kids of any age. That’s especially true of teenagers who have spent the summer staying out late and sleeping until noon.

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But when it’s time to go back to school, getting back into healthy sleep patterns is a necessity for having the right amount of focus and energy in the classroom.

“Anyone who’s had jet lag can relate to the feeling they can have when adjusting their sleep schedule,” says pediatric sleep specialist Jyoti Krishna, MD. “You’re sleeping at the wrong times, your mind is foggy and you don’t feel sharp.”

4 tips for school-year sleep habits

If your kids — or you — have lapsed into a “late to bed, late to rise” sleep routine this summer, here are Dr. Krishna’s tips for getting back into proper school-year sleep routines:

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1. Know the right amount. According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids ages 5-12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Teenagers need 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep to function at their best. The amount of sleep adults need ranges between 7 and 9 hours.

2. Go 15 minutes at a time. “It’s not a good idea to wait until the day before school starts to make changes,” says Dr. Krishna. Start by shifting their wake time earlier by 15 minutes each or every other morning, then calculate the right bedtime based on the amount of sleep they need. “Adjusting their wake time by two hours could take a week to 10 days,” he says.

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3. Provide the right get-to-sleep conditions. “The last two hours before bedtime should be relatively quiet,” Dr. Krishna says. That means no exercise, no caffeine, cell phones off and limited television. The sun still sets late in the early weeks of the school year, so use heavy drapes that darken the room at bedtime, This signals their bodies that it’s time to sleep. Allow bright sunlight in when it’s time to wake up.

4. Take sleep deprivation seriously. “I liken it to cigarette smoking,” says Dr. Krishna. “Smoking one cigarette does not kill a person, but long-term smoking does affect people’s health. If you don’t get enough sleep for a long enough period of time, it begins to take a toll on your health.” Sleeping problems make chronic diseases harder to treat, he says and contributes to a lack of energy, low pain tolerance, changes in hormone levels and a decline in learning and critical thinking.

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