Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back to School Sleep Tips for Parents

It’s that time of year again when parents have to break the bad habits that keep kids up late during the summer months. The switch to an early morning wake-up call that comes with the start of school is the source frustration for parents. Getting kids to put down the Playstation controller and get to bed at a decent hour can be met with fits of refusal.

This bedtime battle is in the children’s best interest of course. Kids who use technology late into the night have trouble staying awake and alert in the classroom. As the Sleep Education Blog reported earlier this summer, children score higher in school when their parents enforce regular bedtimes.

Children need more sleep than adults for full daytime functioning and healthy long-term development. Individual sleep needs depend on the age. Younger children should get to bed much earlier than their adolescent siblings (see chart below).

If your child won’t sleep at bedtime it may be a sleep hygiene issue. Nearly a quarter of children have some kind of sleep complaint, whether its outright refusal to sleep or frequent trips to the bathroom.

The first step is to set a regular bedtime for your child, and enforcing it even on weekends. Staying up late on Saturdays may throw off their body clock and make bedtime difficult early in the school week.

A transition period may help children change their bedtime. Try putting them to sleep a half hour earlier every night until you have reached the desired bedtime. Then get them outside in the morning and expose them to sunlight. This can help them get used to being awake earlier by regulating their body clock.

Set an electronics black-out an hour before bedtime. Cell phones, computers and video games all have bright screens that can prevent children from feeling tired at bedtime. The stimulation from video games can also make winding down difficult. Try a reading hour instead and encourage a healthy hobby that can last a lifetime.

Chocolate, cola and caffeine in general should be off limits in the late afternoon and evening. There’s nothing more difficult than trying to get a kid on a so-called “sugar rush” to sleep.

Back to school can be a stressful time for families, but introducing these healthy habits can help kids adjust to early school start times, even if young people aren’t suited for early hours.

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