As the clock begins to wind down and summer nights become shorter, getting kids off their summer sleep schedule — or lack of one — can pose a challenge for parents.
However, getting students on a regular sleeping pattern in time for school plays an important role in how well they succeed throughout the school year, experts said.
“Good sleep promotes good health and happiness,” said Dr. Rajaraman Iyer, a pediatrician affiliated with St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and Community Hospital in Munster. “Children perform better in school after a good night’s sleep.”
A lack of sleep, on the other hand, may cause poor school academic and athletic performance, he said.
“Children are fidgety, hyperactive or may sleep during school, causing disturbance in school functioning,” Iyer said. “Teenagers with a lack of sleep can develop anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.”
They may also gain excess weight, increasing the potential for diseases like hypertension and diabetes, he said.
“Sleep is an important activity in our daily life,” Iyer said. “This is especially important for them to rest, which helps our different organ systems to recuperate after a long, active day.”
He warns that older teens who drive may even fall asleep behind the wheel, putting their lives and others at peril.
The usual recommendations for sleep varies depending on the age of the child. Typically, 3- to 5-year-old children should sleep between 11 and 13 hours daily, including naps. Children 5 to 8 years old should sleep 10 to 11 hours, 9- to 12-year-olds should sleep nine to 10 hours, and teenagers between 13 and 18 usually need between 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep.
“Sleeping time schedules should be consistent to produce good performance and good rest,” Iyer said.
That means even on non-school days, such as the weekends or vacation, parents should try to keep their kids on a normal routine sleep schedule, Iyer said. If that’s not possible, Iyer recommends planning an extra one to two hours of sleep in the morning during breaks.
With most school districts opening later this month, here are a few tips for parents to get their kids’ sleep habits ready for the new year.
— Plan ahead. Start about two to three weeks before school starts (or now if that time has passed). Keep a regular schedule during this time and avoid any special activities, such as vacation or camp, that might throw off that schedule, Iyer said.
— Gradually adjust. About two weeks before school, every night, set an incrementally earlier bedtime. Each morning, according to the National Sleep Foundation, set an incrementally earlier wake-up time.
— Create a pattern. For younger kids, start a regular bedtime activity that can be continued during the school year, such as reading stories together. Iyer advises pulling the cords on electronics and TV early evening. This includes having a parking place outside the bedroom for cellphones, laptops and other electronics. The National Sleep Foundation also recommends including relaxing activities in the evening, such as a bath or reading time for older children.
— Watch the family’s diet. Avoid caffeine or caffeinated drinks after 2 p.m., and eat foods that don’t interfere with the body’s natural sleep patterns — eat lots of healthful foods and less sugar, Iyer said. The National Sleep Foundation also advises avoiding heavy meals right before bed.
— Create a peaceful environment. Make sure each bedroom is dark and comfortable, and has a room temperature that is neither too hot nor cold, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
— Be a role model. Set a good example for your child, the foundation advised. Establish your own regular sleep cycle and maintain a home that promotes healthy sleep.