Back-to-School Means Adjusting Kids' 'Sleep Clocks'

Tips on keeping youngsters well-rested as fall term begins

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SUNDAY, Aug. 20, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Along with getting new school supplies and clothing, re-establishing children's sleep habits should be on parents' back-to-school to-do lists.

Children tend to go to go to bed and wake up later during the summer, and altering this cycle can be difficult, note experts at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Parents should try to get their children back into a school-year sleeping schedule at least one or two weeks before classes start, said Dr. Anne-Marie Slinger, assistant professor of pediatrics, UF College of Medicine.

If a child isn't properly prepared and doesn't get enough sleep, it can really affect their school performance.

"Sleep deprivation can have a pretty significant effect on concentration, memory and even mood. If a child is chronically sleep deprived, it's far more difficult for them to participate in classroom activities and learn new things. If they're tired, they won't be engaged," Slinger said in a prepared statement.

In general, children require at least nine hours of uninterrupted sleep to be ready for learning.

Establishing a regular sleep schedule also makes it easier to children to wake up in order to have enough time to have a healthy breakfast, another important factor in school performance.

"To help them prepare for a new school year, it's important to talk to kids so they know what to expect and to familiarize them with their daily schedule before the school year begins. There are a lot of things parents can do to ease that transition back to school," Slinger said.

For example, parents can schedule activities -- such as brushing teeth, taking a bath, or reading a story -- that assist the transition to bedtime.

More information

The U.S. National Sleep Foundation has more about children and sleep.

SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, August 2006

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