Health & Wellness

If You Snooze in School, You Lose

Do you rely on that second or third cup of coffee to make it through the day? Try being a young, growing student with the same problem. Daytime fatigue is often a result of a poor night’s sleep.

Three-quarters of adults report having at least one ongoing issue with sleep during the year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Imagine a child that has the same problem. Being so tired that he or she can’t function at a normal level is dangerous. With school around the corner bringing another change to the daily routine, the sleep patterns established over the summer break can be hard to break.

It’s astounding to hear that 69 percent of children aged 10 and under experience some type of sleep problem (National Sleep Foundation). Most parents don’t know that kids aged 5-12 need 10-11 hours of sleep each night. Less than 10 hours of sleep can impair academic performance as well as place a child at risk for falling behind in school, physical injury and obesity.

So how do you handle the shift in routine and sleep schedule? Other than the obvious – no caffeine before bed, watch their sugar intake, etc. here are some tips:

  • Be consistent. Pick a bedtime and stick to it every day. Eventually a child will get into the rhythm and become sleepy at the same time each day. This goes for mornings, too. Make sure the child gets up at the same time everyday to establish a sleep/wake routine.
  • Avoid gadgets and gizmos. Most children – even young ones – have some sort of electronic device in their rooms. Turn off iPods, gaming devices, cell phones and TVs. Some sleep specialists recommend that TVs not even be placed in bedrooms. The forced quiet and lack of electricity in the room will create a calming environment.
  • Don’t be afraid of the dark. A dark room is the best environment to encourage sleep. If your child needs a nightlight because of nightmares or night terrors, find one that gives a calming glow. Choose a blue bulb or soft white. Keep in mind that exposure to light decreases melatonin levels, which is an important hormone that aids sleep.
  • Go to your room. Don’t allow your children to sleep anywhere other than their sleep space. Shifting sleep locations, such as to the couch, your bed, or an armchair can disrupt the sleep pattern of even a heavy sleeper.
  • Establish a ritual. Find something fun or special to share with your child when it’s time to sleep. Reading a book with your child is a great ritual that helps the child transition from being awake and active to preparing for sleep. Not to mention it gives them something to look forward to.

While summer is the perfect time  for a more carefree and fun schedule, we advise parents to start a consistent bedtime ritual 7 – 10 days before school starts so that their child is already in a good sleep/wake routine and ready for the new school year! Because if you snooze in school, you lose.

By Karen Rollins, RRT, RPSGT, coordinator for Roper St. Francis Sleep/Wake Disorder Center

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