Back to School: Developing a Great Sleep Schedule

As summer break comes to a close and back-to-school preparation begins, it is vitally important to help your children get back on a good sleep schedule. Often, children go to bed later and sleep in during the summer months, and adjusting to a school schedule can be a shock to the system. Sleep is clearly linked with better outcomes such as improved attention, memory and mental and physical health.

Here are some actions to take to ease the back-to-school sleep transition:

Determine Hours of Sleep Needed

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that kindergarten through twelfth-grade students get between nine and 11 hours of sleep. You can use the academy’s online sleep calculator to calculate the hours of sleep needed for your child based on age and wake time.

Limit Caffeine and Sugar

Avoiding any caffeine or sugar after 2 p.m. is best for sleep patterns. Studies have shown that caffeine intake can make it hard to fall asleep, and consuming sugar can affect your ability to stay asleep.

Set a Consistent Schedule

It’s really important to have a set time to fall asleep as well as a set time to wake up, based on the amount of sleep needed. Younger children still may need a nap, but it should be no later than 2 p.m. Middle and high school students should avoid naps as it will disrupt the natural sleep drive.

Turn Screens Off

Blue light from television screens, phones and computer monitors can interfere with the production of the hormone melatonin, which is an important factor in the sleep-wake cycle. If your child is playing video games or watching TV before bed, it is likely to keep your child up an extra 30 to 60 minutes. So, be sure to turn off the screens at least two hours before bedtime.

Use the 15-minute Method

It’s best to gradually adjust to a new sleep cycle over a series of days or weeks. Slowly move bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every few days until the ideal number of hours is achieved.

Sleep should not be underestimated as an integral part of overall health. Start the school year off right with a great routine!

Jenna Kado, MD, is an internist and sleep doctor with ProMedica Physicians Pulmonary/Sleep Medicine.