How to get your kids back on their school-year sleep schedule

It sure does feel like summer, which can make it hard to believe (especially for kids) that summer break is almost over for students throughout metro Atlanta.

ExploreMost metro districts return to school by early August, starting with a few school districts including Rockdale County returning to classes at the end of July.

As families get ready for a new school year, it’s important for children to establish a sleeping pattern after a couple of months of going to bed and waking up late.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, school-age children need nine to 11 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers need eight to 10 hours. However, when surveyed in 2014, parents estimated their children's sleep time to be lower than that: with 11-and 12-year-olds getting just 8.2 hours; and teenagers ages 15-17 getting barely seven hours of slumber a night. One-quarter of parents indicated their kids should be getting a full hour more of sleep every night to be at their best, according to the poll.

Credit: Lynne Sladky

Credit: Lynne Sladky

Lack of sleep contributes to a wide range of woes, including an impaired performance in school and behavioral and emotional problems.

Dr. Anthony Sabatino, former chief medical officer and regional vice president for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, offers the following six tips to help establish a new sleep pattern and make sure they don't start the school year off on the wrong side of the bed:

Maintain a balanced schedule. At the beginning of the school year, it's exciting to see all the great activities and opportunities available to children, but be careful not to overcommit. Evening activities and homework are commonly cited reasons for a lack of sleep, especially among teenagers.

Develop a consistent pre-bedtime routine. The body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading, taking baths, and listening to music. Avoid TV, Web surfing, video games, physical activities and sugary foods or drinks before bedtime. You might want to consider removing any iPads or computers from the bedroom.

Consider placing a clock in your children's rooms and informing them of their wake-up time. Ask them to stay in the bed until that time each morning — unless there is a compelling reason to leave their rooms. If they wake up before the designated time and cannot immediately get back to sleep, leave a book by their nightstand to read (versus getting up and becoming active). Chances are your children will fall back asleep.

Keep it quiet once they're in bed. It can be tough for kids' bodies to understand that it's time to go to sleep if parents or older siblings are still being active or loud. They feel like they're missing out on something. Once your child is in bed, dim the lights in the house and stick to relaxing, quiet activities. Music can also be soothing to some children (and adults), so consider using a device with a timer that can play soft instrumental music for up to 30 minutes as your children drift off to sleep.

MORE: 9 recipes for quick, easy and healthy lunches to pack for your kids

Be on the lookout for medical conditions that may be interfering with sleep. If your child is going to bed at a reasonable time but still showing signs of sleep deprivation, your child may have an issue affecting the child's sleep patterns. Common signs of sleep deprivation include difficulty waking up in the morning, taking excessive naps, acting overly emotional, hyperactivity, or having trouble with concentration. If your child is displaying these symptoms, your child may have sleep apnea, sleep anxiety, allergies or other disorders getting in the way of a good night's sleep. Consult your doctor if you think your child may have a problem.

And remember, it's not just the amount of sleep children and teenagers get each night, but the quality of that sleep. Even eight or nine hours of interrupted sleep will typically result in children being tired and unable to focus the next day, Sabatino said.


1. Eighty percent of adults have back pain at some point of their lives. Young adults should wear a backpack with padded arm supports, and a waist belt, and the total weight should be less than 15 percent of their body weight. Consider a rolling pack.

2. Wear reflective gear in the early morning and early evening when ambient light is at its lowest.

3. Look both ways when crossing before and after getting on and off the bus.

4. Always wear seat belts.

5. If you ride to school, wear a helmet at all times.

6. Consider drinking water instead of high-caloric sugary drinks, and avoid soda. Childhood obesity and weight gain lead to type 2 diabetes and other medical problems later in life.

7. Walk to school with a companion, and use the safest route possible. Wear bright colors. Do not talk to strangers, and consider carrying a whistle to alert someone if you are in danger.

8. If you are bullied or see someone else being bullied, report this to an adult supervisor, parent or teacher.

9. If you drive to school, remember a car is like a weapon. Don’t text and drive.

10. Have fun, study hard, and be a friend to those who need one.

SOURCE: Dr. Anthony Sabatino, former chief medical officer and regional vice president for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia

MORE: The summer break is almost over for Atlanta students: this is when each district reopens