Health Matters

Shifting to a School-Time Sleep Schedule

Aug. 24, 2016

A new school year is fast approaching and that means it’s time for kids to snap out of their summer sleep schedule so they’ll be well rested and ready to succeed in the classroom. UR Medicine pediatric sleep expert Dr. Heidi Connolly offers advice for helping kids acclimate to a school-time sleep cycle.young girl falling asleep reading a book

One of the toughest things about kicking kids' summer sleep habits to the curb is making the shift from sleeping-in to “wake up or you’re going to miss your bus.”

For students, having to be awake at a set time in the morning—or any disruption or delay in getting to sleep—can potentially shorten their total sleep time. Sleep deprivation in kids is associated with learning difficulties, risk-taking behaviors, academic under-performance, and motor vehicle crashes in young drivers. And academic issues associated with sleep deprivation and disruption are cumulative. Kids need what they learn in first grade to be successful in second grade.

Shifting from summer slumber to school-time sleeping impacts both students and parents. Here are a few tips to help you make a smooth transition.

  • Ease into it. Make the change gradually rather than one or two days before school begins. You can start now, waking your kids up 15 minutes earlier each day. This will also make it easier for them to get to bed earlier in the evening. The goal is to move towards a target waking time that will allow your kids time to eat a proper breakfast and catch their bus.
  • Power down. Electronic devices—like phones, tablets and televisions—should be turned off and put away at bedtime. Research shows that using electronics, particularly those with light-emitting screens, suppresses melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. A smartphone light can also disrupt your sleep cycle, making it harder to stay asleep. It’s a good idea to avoid using these devices at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Play during the day. Kids should be active and get plenty of exercise during daytime hours. Try and maximize their bright-light exposure during the day.
  • Crack a book. Reading is good way to relax before going to bed. Poring over the pages of a paperback is a great way to promote rest and good health.

Heidi Connolly, MD


Heidi V. Connolly, M.D., is chief of the Division of Pediatric Sleep Medicine and director of the Pediatric Sleep Medicine Services Program at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital.