How to get kids to sleep better |

How to get kids to sleep better

Girl sleeping
Getty Images/Creatas RF | Creatas RF

It’s that time of year again. Students are picking up their text books, closing the locks on their lockers, and getting their last-minute supplies for going back to school. Among buying binders and book covers, kids are also getting ready for those early morning wake up calls.

For any kid going back to school, it is always hard adjusting to that old routine of waking up early for class. With the first day of school still in middle of summer here in Nevada County, it’s especially difficult for parents who have their kids going to bed before the sun has even set.

“We have to get back into a routine and make bedtime consistently the same time” said mother Meghan Turner Thomas. Thomas has two kids, 4-year-old Max who is about to start at Nevada City School of the Arts, and 1-year-old Zoe.

“During the summer it’s really easy to have fun and get out of the habit of things, but going to bed at a good time and getting good quality sleep is crucial,” added Thomas.

“During the summer it’s really easy to have fun and get out of the habit of things, but going to bed at a good time and getting good quality sleep is crucial.”
Meghan Turner Thomas

Kristen Adams, another local parent, didn’t let summer mess up her children’s sleeping habits. She has two children, a 5-year-old about to start at Grass Valley Charter School and 4-year-old set to return to Tall Pines Nursery School just after Labor Day.

“For us, there’s no summer and school schedule, I keep them on the same schedule all the time. I don’t let my kids stay up late in the summer … it’s too hard to transition them back, they’re not great sleepers so to switch them back and forth is just too difficult” said Adams.

Both parents said on average their kids get around 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, which, according to the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation, is the exact amount of sleep 5- to 12-year-olds require each night.

Getting a uniform schedule for waking and sleeping is important seven days a week, said Dr. John Reeder, a pediatrician at Sierra Care Physicians in Grass Valley.

Establishing a schedule now to mimic the school routine is better for children than doing it at the last minute, Reeder added.

Lack of sleep can affect a student’s behavior and ability to learn, including mimicking symptoms of ADHD, he said.

For high school students, sleep is just as important, however, they typically average fewer hours of sleep each night.

“My sleep schedule during the school year always depends on what’s going on that week, but I generally try to get to sleep before midnight. Then with waking up at 6 a.m., I net about six hours if I’m on target” said Nevada Union High School senior Kierra Newton.

According to the Mayo Clinic, teenagers require nine hours of sleep a night on average.

“At the end of summer, it usually pans out to be one of those things where I make an elaborate plan of getting myself back on track to be ready for school like a week in advance, but I’ll end up just being exhausted for a while when classes start,” added Newton.

“I find myself stressing over how much sleep I’ll be able to get each night,” said fellow NU senior Tori Newman. “On average I have about five hours of homework plus hours of extracurricular activities to take care of after school. I know that I’m not getting enough sleep; it shows in my health, my mental state, and my performance. I try to squeeze in short naps when I have extra time.”

To prepare students for a good night sleep prior to the start of the school year, the National Sleep Foundation recommends:

Teaching school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.

Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.

Make child’s bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.

Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.

Avoid caffeine.

For teens, the foundation advices that “limiting screen time in the evening is important, since the blue light emitted by screens on devices like ipads and cellphones can send alerting signals to the brain,” impacting a good night’s sleep.

Maya Anderman is an intern with The Union. Features Editor Brett Bentley contributed to this story.

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