For many school-age children and teenagers, summer vacation is a chance to stay up late at night and sleep late in the morning. Trying to set your child’s sleep schedule for the returning school year can prove to be a daunting task, but it is very important because it helps your child succeed in school. Studies have shown that children who get fewer than eight hours of sleep a night are more likely to get lower grades than their peers who get more sleep. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and Dr. Robert Schriner, medical director of the Baptist Sleep Disorders Center at Baptist Collierville, have provided guidelines for effectively resetting your child’s sleep schedule.
Dr. Schriner says a good rule of thumb for children ages 6 through 12 is to sleep at least eight hours a night. Studies also show that teenagers need to sleep an hour longer than they did in their preteen years, so they need around nine hours of sleep a night. When teenage students do not get the recommended amount of sleep, consequences include dozing off in class, attention loss, and sleeping late on weekends to catch up.
To get your child started on a back-to-school sleep schedule, the NSF recommends the following:
- Set a bedtime and wake up time several weeks before school begins. As school time draws nearer, start gradually moving up the bedtime and the wake-up time by 15 minutes.
- Instead of spending time awake late at night during the summer, enjoy the sunlight in the early morning. Encourage children to play outdoors or to spend time somewhere other than in front of the television to get their sleep cycle back to normal.
- Set and keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule every day of the week, including weekends. This helps your child adjust to an earlier school schedule.
Once school starts, several things help children and teenagers get the recommended amount of sleep each night. These include:
- Maintaining a regular bedtime
- Establishing a pre-sleep routine
- Creating a cool, dark and quiet sleep environment
- Limiting caffeine consumption after lunchtime
- Eliminating electronics / phones from the bedroom at night
Dr. Schriner and the NSF emphasize the importance of getting a good night’s sleep to maximize children’s learning potential at school. Waiting too long to adjust your child’s sleep schedule may result in your child not being able to fall asleep on school nights or having trouble waking up before school. Taking the initiative to correct children’s sleep schedules now will help them be well rested for class, giving them a much higher chance for success in school.