Kids’ Days of Sleeping Past Noon are Numbered

Get kids accustomed to school sleep schedules well before the first day

August 11, 2009

Staying up late and sleeping in might be great perks to summer vacation, but without a gradual change in habits, kids can face a rude awakening come September. With the school year approaching, parents should take the time to re-examine their children’s sleeping habits. Small adjustments can make a big difference in ensuring students are primed to do their best once school has begun.

Heidi Connolly, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry who manages the Pediatric Sleep Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, recommended the following tips about modifying children’s sleep schedules for the school year:

  • Most parents try to change their kids’ sleeping habits in the wrong order. Parents should progressively wake children up earlier, starting about two weeks before school starts, rather than starting the adjustment period with early bedtimes. Since children won’t be accustomed to going to bed early, they’re more likely to have difficulty falling asleep.
  • Everyone in the household should try to get settled down for bed at the same time. Cool, quiet, dark spaces are conducive to sleeping. It’s okay for older kids to have later bedtimes than their younger siblings, but they should not be playing loud music at 2 a.m., for instance. (Despite the later bedtime, teens should still strive for nine or nine-and-a-half hours of sleep a night.)
  • Children and teens should maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, to ensure that they get a sufficient amount of REM sleep. REM sleep, which incurs dreams, only begins after several hours of sleep. Lack of REM sleep compromises memory, which makes it more difficult for students to retain knowledge they learn in school.

This adjustment period is a great opportunity to pay close attention to kids’ sleeping habits. If children are snoring or bed-wetting at night or show signs of hyperactivity and behavioral issues during the day, they might have a sleep disorder. Sleep problems affect between 2 and 4 percent of children and sleeping difficulties affect nearly 40 percent of children, according to Connolly. Lack of quality sleep can lead to poor academic performance, memory loss and apathy, in addition to driving impairment in teens.

Connolly’s team of pediatric experts at the Pediatric Sleep Center will see children through college who are struggling with sleepiness during the daytime or having sleeping problems at night. They can often help families find straightforward ways to solve sleeping problems, without the need for medication, simply by making changes in habits. To contact the Pediatric Sleep Center, call (585) 341-7444. For more information on sleep, visit http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Sleep/.

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