Back-to-school sleep schedule

As summer vacation draws to an end, it's important to help children re-establish a healthy back-to-school sleep schedule.

Children need more sleep than adults. Children ages 5 to 12 require 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night, while teens should have at least 9 hours. The National Sleep Foundation has found that only 20 percent of teens get enough sleep.

Ongoing lack of sleep has many serious consequences, including:

  • Poor school performance
  • Behavioral problems
  • Developmental problems
  • Irritability
  • Weight gain

Drowsy teens who get behind the wheel of a car can suffer even more dire consequences. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates drowsy driving causes at least 100,000 crashes and kills more than 1,500 Americans each year.

How you can help

Parents can help children adjust their sleep patterns for the upcoming school year by following these guidelines:

At least 2 to 3 weeks before school starts, set a bedtime and wake-up time. Children with bedtimes before 10 p.m. are much more likely to get enough sleep than children with later bedtimes. If necessary, the schedule can be adjusted at a gradual pace (about 15 minutes every 2 days) to ease the transition.

In the last days of summer, wake your children early. Emphasize activity and bright light in the morning. For example, send them outside to play, rather than allowing them to watch TV.

  • Be consistent with your children's sleep schedules, even if they don't have school the next day
  • Establish a relaxing evening routine. Avoid exercise or stimulating activities in the last few hours before bedtime
  • Create a sleep environment that is cool, dark, quiet and comfortable
  • Limit caffeine, especially after lunchtime
  • Avoid having a TV or computer in the bedroom
  • Make sleep a priority and set a good example

Learn about the Sleep Center and our specialists.

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