School is around the corner. A time of great joy and celebration – for parents at least.
Making the transition from summer sleep schedules to school schedules can be fraught with frustration and conflict.
Transitioning kids to school sleep schedules, what do you know, T or F?
1. Bedtime is more important than total hours of sleep. 2. Reading on smart phone can induce sleep. 3. Middle school kids need about 7 hours of sleep.
Good sleep can decrease behavioral and academic problems. The goal is to fall asleep easily, stay asleep and awake rested. A fixed bedtime has been shown to significantly improve concentration and cognitive abilities.
The University College of London tested children and found that a fixed bedtime is a major factor in school performance, separate from bedtime and number of hours asleep. The brain thrives on routine. Erratic bedtimes confuse the brain and interfere with restful, restorative sleep.
The brain needs cues that sleep is pending. A 15-minute transition time from mental alertness to quiet state sends signals to the brain that it is sleep time. This 15-minute routine should include quiet activities that do not involve computers and electronic devices. The blue light of such devices sends information to the brain that it is daytime and to be on high alert.
Experts suggest no electronics, including television, in bedrooms and shutting off all such devices a half hour prior to bedtime. The quiet time which should induce sleep can include reading for older kids or coloring or bedtime stories for younger kids.
During this time the brain is powering down and readying itself for sleep. Small children who are anxious about separating from parents may do well with a transition object such as stuffed animal. Stopping caffeine at least 6 hours prior to bedtime will also improve sleep.
What is the best bedtime for kids? Well, there is not a specific time. However, there is wide consensus on the hours of sleep needed to optimize cognitive function and improve mood. School age kids from kindergarten through eighth grade need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Adolescents need 8 1/2 hours to 9 1/4 hours sleep nightly. That is really hard to get when you are playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops” until 3 a.m!
So, do the math and figure out when your child has to awaken and determine bedtime. Then, in the face of fierce objections, cries for one more cup of water and one more hug stay steadfast in enforcing the bedtime.
During the summer many kids stay up into the wee hours but then get 8 to 10 hours of sleep, awakening in late morning or early afternoon. Nice schedule if you can get it but the real world of school intrudes into this reality.
When the time comes for a change it can be extremely difficult, for kids and parents. Transition is best done in increments so the brain can adapt. Consider backing up bedtime 15 minutes daily until you get to the desired bedtime. If the summer bedtime is nowhere near school bedtime, then more drastic changes should be implemented.
The National Sleep Foundation offers helpful suggestions to make this transition easier for all concerned at www.sleepforkids.org.
“Just one more hug!”
Again. Who can resist that? I'm doomed.
Answers: 1. T; 2. F; 3. F.
Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at email@example.com.