School Daze: 4 Easy Tips for Getting Your Kids to Sleep
Posted 8/12/2016 by UHBlog
With the new school year upon you, you may be focused on buying new notebooks and shoes, arranging carpools and filling out emergency forms – all important components for a smooth school year. Equally valuable is getting your children’s sleep back on track.
“Children have to be alert for their lessons,” says pediatric sleep specialist Carol Rosen, MD. “It’s hard to problem-solve if they’re sleepy. A lack of sleep affects their attention, behavior and learning.”
According to Dr. Rosen, school-age kids require an average of nine hours of quality sleep each night – with kindergartners needing closer to 10 hours and most high school students functioning well with eight hours of Z's. However, as many as 30 percent of children suffer from some form of insomnia, she says.
Dr. Rosen offers four tips for getting your kids on a healthy sleep schedule for the school year:
- Start now. Determine what time your children need to get up every morning for school, so you can set a school-year bedtime that allows them the amount of sleep they need to function optimally. Then, over the last two or three weeks of summer break, ease them into their school-year sleep schedules by moving back reveille about a half an hour every few days.
“When the sun is out longer, it’s harder to put kids to bed earlier,” Dr. Rosen says. “It’s better to move their wake times earlier.”
- Remove “sleep stealers.” These include:
- TVs, iPads and other electronic devices in bedrooms
- Caffeinated beverages
- Late-day naps
- Scary movies close to bedtime
- Establish a bedtime routine. It should be “short and sweet” and shouldn’t involve electronic media, Dr. Rosen says. For younger kids, wind-down time followed by a bath, jammies, then a bedtime story sets the stage for a good night’s sleep.
- Stick to a regular schedule. “On the weekend everybody stays up late and sleeps in, which could really shift your schedule,” she says. “It’s almost like getting jet-lagged every weekend. Don’t vary wake-up times by more than two hours on weekends.”
If you’re following these guidelines and your child is still having trouble falling asleep or waking up, is snoring excessively or is napping during the day, it’s important to see your pediatrician.
“School-age children should not be napping,” Dr. Rosen says. “If they’re getting eight or nine hours of sleep and having a daytime nap, that’s an unusual symptom and you should talk to your doctor. Children should wake up spontaneously if they’ve had enough sleep. If they always need a parent to wake them in the morning, that’s another clue they’re not getting enough sleep.”
Carol Rosen, MD is a pediatric sleep specialist and Medical Director, Pediatric Sleep Center at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Rosen or any other doctor online.