Saturday, July 5, 2014

Healthy Sleep Habits Can Optimize Your Child’s School Performance

Carol Ash, M.D.
Director of Sleep Medicine
Meridian Health

For many parents summer means relaxing and letting go of rules. Our kids have spent summer hanging out enjoying time with friends and family, staying up late and sleeping in. The days are getting shorter, and the end of summer is here which means parents and kids will need to prepare for the transition back to school.

In a recent Proctor and Gamble and ORC International Survey 93 percent of moms said they face challenges preparing for back to school. Nearly half (47 percent) of the moms surveyed said the “biggest pain point” was getting kids back to a regimented sleep pattern and a set schedule.

Getting kids back on schedule and out the door to school and activities is not just a “big pain point” for moms.

Inadequate or poor quality sleep will affect a child’s development, and has been linked to emotional instability, poor school performance, and serious health issues such as childhood obesity, diabetes, and missed school days from infections.  It has been linked to risky behaviors such as drowsy driving, alcohol and tobacco abuse. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) two-thirds of American children age 10 and younger have sleep problems.  They noted 60 percent of children under the age of 18 complained of being tired during the day, and 15 percent fell asleep at school.
Despite increasing awareness of the importance of sleep, and the prevalence of the problem, shopping for new school supplies and preseason sports still gets the most attention.

Most sleep problems are treatable, and for many all that is required is adopting good bedtime habits.  A Back to School Sleep (BTS) sleep check list would make the transition easier and get our kids off to a good start. 

BTS Sleep check list

1. Get the right amount. The NSF recommends:
  • 11-13 hours of sleep for preschoolers age 3-5
  • 10-11 hours of sleep for 5 to 12 year olds
  • 9 hours or more for teens

2. Start the shift early. Prior to school start sleep experts recommend gradually getting back to a school year sleep schedule by moving bedtime up 15 minutes a night.

3. Don’t let them sleep in. For those that didn’t start this early, you should now focus on maintaining the same wake-up time on weekends. This will help set your child’s internal clock. Eventually it will make getting them to bed at night easier.

4. A 20 min nap will help until the transition is complete. Most kids older than five no longer need to nap. A 20-minute nap after school can help during the transition if bedtime is a struggle.

5. Make sure the room is quiet, dark, cool, and uncluttered. Bold colors and flashy décor might be a great fashion statement but you want a serene sanctuary.

6. Remove all electronics from the room. NSF found children who get more sleep are more likely to read as part of their bedtime routine.

7. Sleep training books are great for younger kids. 
"Getting Your Toddler to Go to Sleep and Stay in Bed," by Jill Spivack and Jennifer Waldburger, Sleepy Pl

8. Try a sleep gadget. Even for kids intrusive thoughts and worries about the day may can keep them up at night.

Gadgets such as "Deep Sleep" will teach them mediation and help them learn how to unwind and relax. Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson is available for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store.

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