Wake up! Back to school means back to alarm clocks

One of the worst aspects of back to school season for parents is getting kids to adhere to a structured sleep schedule.

The freedom of summers without an alarm clock make the first few weeks hard on the entire family.

Even short breaks in winter or spring are opportunities for kids to stay up later. This can lead to difficulties transitioning back into their normal pattern of waking up for school.

Rising 9th grader Demetrius Daniel of Tucker doesn’t anticipate any problems. As a member of the swim and water polo teams, he has practice at 6 a.m. each day.

“It was hard at first to adjust to that,” said Chamblee High School student. “And sometimes I just don’t want to go to bed on time.”

He was late to the first practice this summer because he couldn’t make himself let go of that extra hour of sleep.

“I usually get up at 6 — even on the weekends, so getting up at 5 shouldn’t have made that much of a difference, but it did.”

He now sets at least five alarms — two minutes apart — and keeps his phone across the room.

“It’s irritating enough that I’ll eventually get up,” he said. “I’m finally getting used to it. At one point I had to set 10 alarms.”

According to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 75 percent of teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep — eight hours a night.

Medical professionals say this lack of sleep is associated with a variety of risky behaviors such as physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, fighting and sexual promiscuity.

Researchers found that among high school students, 9th-grade males were more likely to sleep at least eight hours a night (37.5%) and 12th-grade males were least likely to get at least eight hours of sleep (17.3%).

The National Sleep Foundation provides tips for encourages parents and kids to put healthy sleep on the list of back-to-school necessities with these tips.

  • Gradually adjust sleep and wake schedules 10 days to two weeks before the start of school. This will help setting their biological clocks to the new schedule.
  • Keep a regular bedtime even on weekends. This makes sure kids and teens are getting enough sleep. It also keeps their circadian rhythms regulated.
  • Your kids should have a relaxing bedtime routine that is age appropriate. This helps kids wind down. The routine should be the same every night so they associate all steps with sleep.
  • Create a sleep environment that is cool, quiet, dimly lit, and comfortable.
  • Electronics should be kept out of the bedroom. This included video games, televisions, computers, and cell phones. Use of electronics before bed can lead to poor sleep. Eliminate exposure to electronic media within an hour before bed.
  • Limit caffeine, especially after lunch.
  • Make sure your kids eat well and exercise regularly. Both these things promote sleep.