UW Health Kids: Consistent sleep is essential for youth development in school

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MADISON, Wis. – As kids prepare to head back to school in a few weeks, now is the time to establish healthy sleep habits.

Sleep is essential for the mental and physical health of children and adults, and it’s also something children need to get the most out of school, according to Dr. Rachna Tiwari, pediatric sleep specialist, UW Health Kids and Clinical Assistant Professor, UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

“Teenagers and tweens in particular spend the summer months going to bed late and waking up at different times each day, and getting back into a regular sleep schedule can be difficult,” Tiwari said.

This type of inconsistency results in a child not getting enough sleep, but parents can alleviate the challenges associated with the back-to-school transition by returning children to a routine sleep schedule now several weeks before school starts. , she said. .

To adjust the schedule, parents can try sending children to bed 15 minutes earlier than they went to bed during the summer, then waking them up 15 minutes earlier in the morning, by adjusting the alarm clock and bedtime in 15 minute increments every few days. to achieve the desired sleep schedule, Tiwari said.

“It will make the morning routine of that first week of school a lot less shocking – for the whole family,” she said. “It also means your child is fully awake and ready to learn when school starts.”

Adjusting to a new sleep schedule can be difficult for some children, but if children can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, try doing a calm, relaxing activity before bedtime that doesn’t have blue light, like the one emitted by mobile phone and television. screens, Tiwari said.

To help parents, she recommends:

  • According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids ages 6 to 13 should get 9 to 11, while kids ages 14 to 17 should get 8 to 10.
  • Keep the same bedtime and wake-up times every day, even on weekends.
  • Even for children who are too old to tell a bedtime story, it helps to have a consistent routine that might include showering, quiet reading, or listening to music in the hour before bedtime.
  • Turn off screens, including cell phones, televisions, computers, laptops, and other electronic devices that emit blue light, one hour before you go to bed.
  • Exercise regularly, limit or avoid naps, and avoid caffeine.
  • Keep the bedroom dark and eliminate outside light. It is acceptable to use a pilot light.
  • Maintain a cool temperature in the room.
  • Eliminate noises and keep the room quiet to help you sleep without distraction. A white noise machine or a fan can help with this.

“Starting to change these habits now will go a long way to improving children’s sleep routines during the school year and giving your kids more energy and focus during the school day,” Tiwari says.

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