8 tips for getting your kids on a back-to-school 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.

Cobb County kicks off a new school year Aug. 1, Atlanta Public Schools begins on Aug.3, and DeKalb County, Fulton County and Gwinnett County school districts start up again on Aug. 8.

As parents start getting ready for the 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.

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

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Dr. Mark Kishel, a longtime pediatrician and a senior clinical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, offers the following eight tips to help ease children into a new sleep pattern and make sure they don’t start the school year off on the wrong side of the bed:

  • Gradually re-establish school schedules. If your kids have gotten used to going to bed and waking up later, use the end of summer break to get into a school-day rhythm. Schedule morning activities outside the house and start enforcing new bedtimes.
  • 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.
  • With “Pokemon Go” all the rage, ask your children to stop chasing Pokemon at least an hour before bedtime. Physical activity, combined with time on a tablet, phone or computer, has an impact on falling and staying 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.
  • Limit liquids and late-night meals that could cause frequent trips to the restroom during the night.
  • 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.
  • 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, he or she 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, he or she could 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 they 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,” Kishel said.

 

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