Add Earlier Bedtime to Back-to-School List

Experts urge changing sleep routine at least a week before classes start

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SATURDAY, Aug. 18, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Before the new school year starts, youngsters should start to change their summertime sleep habits. If they don't, they could end up suffering a sleep deficit that could affect their performance in school, say American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) experts.

"It is difficult to advance your bedtime and, once a schedule has been established, it may take days or weeks to develop a new schedule. It can't be done overnight. Not unexpectedly, for the first weeks of school, many children and teens do not obtain a proper amount of sleep," Dr. Daniel G. Glaze, a pediatric sleep expert at the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston and a member of the AASM board of directors, said in a prepared statement.

The switch from a summer-holiday to a school-year sleep schedule "means that there is a big adjustment ahead for teens," Ralph Downey, chief of sleep medicine at the Sleep Disorders Center at Loma Linda Medical Center in California, said in a prepared statement.

He suggested that teens start adjusting their bedtime/wakeup times during the week before the start of school.

Children and teens need more sleep than adults and young peoples' circadian rhythms are more easily disrupted, said Dr. William Kohler, of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill. Depending on their age, students need at least nine to 10 hours of quality sleep a night, and parents need to enforce appropriate bedtime hours and a healthy sleep environment.

"A student's performance is dictated by the amount of sleep he or she gets the night before," Kohler said in a prepared statement. "A child or teen who regularly gets enough sleep will have improved academic performance, a positive attitude toward their education and be able to better interact socially with their peers and teachers."

The AASM offers the following tips for ensuring children and teens get a good night's sleep:

  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
  • Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, as well as any medicine that has a stimulant, before bedtime.
  • Don't stay up late to do homework or "cram" for a test/exam.
  • Don't go to bed hungry, but don't eat a big meal before bedtime.
  • Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of bedtime.
  • Make the bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool. Do not have computers or televisions in a bedroom.
  • Get up at the same time every morning.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and sleep.

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, August 2007

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