LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It's back to school season and, ideally, parents would already have their children back on a school-year sleep schedule. If you don’t yet, don’t stress – we asked healthcare experts for some tips to get the ball rolling.
First, you can start by subtly adjusting your child’s sleep schedule, so that first early morning doesn’t come as a shock. If you start now, you can get them in bed an hour earlier each night and wake them up an hour earlier each morning. That way, when the school year starts, they should be back in the right sleep rhythm.
Second, set a pre-bed ritual, and make sure you follow it consistently. This is especially important for the younger kiddos. Things like taking a bath, brushing their teeth, and maybe a bedtime story should happen at the same time every night. Plus, you can give them a countdown warning, so they know it’s coming. Think something like, “Ten more minutes of play, then we're getting ready for bed!"
Finally, devices, devices, devices. The blue light that comes from phones, computers, and televisions can really take a toll on sleep patterns. The Sleep Foundation found that blue light-emitting devices can delay the release of melatonin and increase alertness, especially in teenagers. Have them power down their devices an hour or two before bedtime, or at least dim the brightness on them.
Not enough sleep, or poor-quality sleep, does more than just give you a cranky kid the next day. It can have profound health effects long term.
“With the children who do not get adequate sleep it is proven they can have hypertension, they can have more problems with mental illness, and physical injury, in fact, if you don't get enough sleep,” said Nancy Brown, a nurse practitioner at Norton Children’s Hospital.
She provided these sleep recommendations for students:
- Elementary school: 10 to 12 hours
- Middle school: 9 to 12 hours
- High school: 8 to 10 hours
If those numbers seem high, you aren’t alone. According to Brown, 75% of high schoolers don’t get adequate sleep. She also said that elementary schoolers should start school earlier and high schoolers should start later in the morning, to keep those sleep rhythms consistent.