Photo: Boy Smiling in Bed

by Tandis Bishop, RDN

During the summer children often stay up later and sleep in longer. But as we prepare our children for the new school year, it is important to get back to a routine sleep schedule.  Research has shown that inadequate sleep, poor sleep quality and sleepiness are common problems in children and adolescents, and are related to learning, memory and academic performance.1

The Problems of Sleep Deprived Kids

Studies indicate that many children are not getting enough sleep, which can impact development and ability to learn in school. This problem has become worse with the prevalence of technology and media consumption. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, school-age children should get a minimum of 10 hours of sleep each night while preschool children should get a minimum of 11 hours.2

Getting less than the recommended amount of sleep has been associated with lower math and literacy skills.3,4 This may also result in sleep-deprived children being disruptive in class, inattentive and hyperactive.5 Recent studies build on existing research which confirms that getting adequate sleep may be one of the most important factors in a child’s academic performance in school.6,7

Helpful Ways for Better Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation offers some useful ways to get kids on a healthy sleep schedule for back to school:8

  1. Gradually adjust sleep and wake schedules 10 days to two weeks before the start of school. This will help set their biological clocks to the new schedule.
  2. Keep a regular bedtime even on weekends. This makes sure kids and teens are getting enough sleep. It also keeps their circadian rhythms regulated. Circadian rhythms are the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. 
  3. 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.
  4. Create a sleep environment that is cool, quiet, dimly lit, and comfortable.
  5. Electronics should be kept out of the bedroom. This includes 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.
  6. Limit caffeine, especially after lunch.
  7. Make sure your kids eat well and exercise regularly. Both these things promote sleep.

These are just a few suggestions to keep in mind as social media competes for your child's attention at bedtime.  And, finally, as we like to say around here, "Love Life! Eat Healthy, Be Happy!

Footnotes: 
  1. Dewald J. et al. The influence of sleep quality, sleep duration and sleepiness on school performance in children and adolescents: A meta-analytic review. Sleep Medicine Reviews. Volume 14, Issue 3, Pages 179–189, June 2010
  2. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep and Children. Retrieved on July 13, 2014 from http://www.sleepeducation.org/.
  3. SLEEP. Journal of Sleep and Sleep Disorders Research. Volume 33, 2010. Abstract Supplement. https://academic.oup.com/DocumentLibrary/SLEEP/AbstractBook2010.pdf
  4. Ononogbu, S., et al. Association between Information and Communication Technology Usage and the Quality of Sleep among School-Aged Children during a School Week. Sleep Disorders. Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 315808, 6 pages. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/315808
  5. National Sleep Foundation. ADHD and Sleep. Retrieved on July 13, 2014 from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/adhd-and-sleep
  6. Bub, Kristen L.; Buckhalt, Joseph A.; El-Sheikh, Mona. Children's sleep and cognitive performance: A cross-domain analysis of change over time. Developmental Psychology, Vol 47(6), Nov 2011, 1504-1514. doi: 10.1037/a0025535
  7. Wahlstrom, K., Dretzke, B., Gordon, M., Peterson, K., Edwards, K., & Gdula, J. (2014). Examining the Impact of Later School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study. Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. St Paul, MN: University of Minnesota.
  8. National Sleep Foundation. Back to School Sleep Tips. Retrieved on July 13, 2014 from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/back-school-sleep-tips