children getting enough sleep

Getting Enough Sleep at Back-to-School Time

Getting enough sleep is key to a successful transition from summertime to back-to-school… for both kids and adults. Don’t wait until the night before school starts to think about sleep. Think a few days or weeks ahead about how you will adjust as a family to a school-focused routine.

According to mattress maker Amerisleep, “sleep proves one of the most important, yet often overlooked, aspects of being successful [in school].” Good sleep habits will help support academic success, reduce stress getting ready in the morning, and reduce family arguments.


How Much Sleep Kids Need

The National Sleep Foundation offers information on how much sleep people need at different ages. Their suggestions for school-age children are as follows:

  • Preschool: 10-13 hours
  • Elementary school: 9-11 hours
  • High school: 8-10 hours

If a child loses sleep one night, he or she may need extra the following night. Children should be able to wake up easily in the morning and stay alert throughout the day.


Why it Matters

There is a variety of reasons, both short-term and long-term, for getting enough sleep.


Morning Routine

The first reason that comes to mind might be your sanity. If you’ve ever argued with a child that it’s time to get up, then struggled to get them ready and out the door, you know the frustration.


During the School Day

Sleep deprivation affects all kinds of functions your child needs to succeed in school. It can inhibit reasoning and complex thought. A well-rested brain is more receptive to new information, which means kids will retain what they learn. Sleep also benefits motor skills and mood.


Lifelong Health

Sleep is important to your child’s long-term mental and emotional health. Web MD says, “Kids who are always sleep-deprived are more likely to have behavior problems, have trouble paying attention and learning, and be overweight.” Sleep, of course, is just one element of health, but it’s an important one.


Your Nighttime Routine

Start introducing a school-focused nighttime routine about two weeks before school starts. If you’re already behind schedule, don’t panic, just start right away.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health say to avoid giving your child a heavy meal close to bedtime and to avoid stimulating activities after dinner. This includes scary books or TV shows. A small, healthy bedtime snack can prevent hunger during the night.

Establish a bedtime routine of no more than 30 minutes. Include necessary activities like brushing teeth. Also choose an enjoyable activity like reading or telling each other stories just before bed. Older children may want to read on their own. However, this is not the time for homework, which can cause stress.

Put away anything with a screen–phones, tablets, televisions–at least one hour before bed. Instead, opt for hands-on play or printed books. The light from screens interferes with circadian rhythms, cheating the body out of sleep. To prevent temptation, removed electronic devices from bedrooms and keep them elsewhere. This applies to your own devices, too. (Read more below.)

Remember to treat sleep as a good thing, something the body craves. Ariana Huffington writes, in her book The Sleep Revolution, “We need to do a much better job of framing sleep in a positive way for our children, letting them know that sleep is a vital part of being able to play and have fun…”


YOU Need Enough Sleep, Too

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. You may need slightly less or more, but be honest with yourself about your needs. If you feel drowsy during the day, you aren’t getting enough sleep. Without getting enough sleep, you will not perform your best in all of life’s other activities. Just as your child can get cranky and struggle to concentrate when sleep deprived, so can you!

Plus, sticking with a healthy sleep routine sets an example for your children and make it easier for them to stay on track, too.


PHOTO: Snapwire / CC0 Public Domain

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