Several North Texas school districts are returning to classes over the next two weeks.
This means that parents are already keeping their children from falling asleep and have to get up early again.
But there’s a warning doctors have for parents when it comes to making sure kids get enough sleep.
“I think a lot of families unfortunately wait until the last minute like the weekend before school starts to try and reschedule their schedules,” said Dr. Michelle Caraballo, a sleep medicine specialist at Children’s Health and an assistant professor at UT Southwest. “If you try to put your child to bed at 9 p.m. after they’ve been going to bed at midnight for the past two months, chances are they just won’t sleep.”
If you haven’t started changing your child’s sleep patterns yet, doctors tell me now is the time.
“If your child’s bedtime for the school year is 8pm and they went to bed at midnight in the summer, we would suggest moving back about 15-30 minutes every few nights. That’s about all for you body can easily get used to it,” said Dr Address.”
She says it can take anywhere from several days to a few weeks to push the schedule back. The transition can be particularly difficult for teenagers.
dr Michelle Caraballo, a sleep specialist at Children’s Health, says you should keep cell phones and other electronic devices out of your child’s room when it’s bedtime.
But there are a number of things parents can do now to help kids get back on schedule.
If you have at least a few days or a week to prepare, start by waking them up earlier in the morning so they’re more sleepy at night.
“If you move your bedtime earlier and earlier, you also move your wake time earlier and earlier. Even if that means getting up before their bodies are naturally ready,” said Dr. caraballo.
Avoid naps when possible for those 5 years and older.
“Because if you take a nap in the middle of the day, it sort of recharges your battery, and then you’re not tired when you go to bed,” says Dr. caraballo. “You also have to enforce that there’s no napping after school, because when they get home — and most kids don’t get home from school until 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. — it’s pretty late in the day, um to take a nap. So if they take a nap, they won’t go back to their regular schedule.”
And let electronics and social media scroll out of the bedroom.
“I think it has to be earlier in the evening, after school or after work. And then, in the hour before bed, I try to be really protective of that. It’s not time to be on your electronic devices,” said Dr. Caraballo: “The light, the noise — whatever they’re doing, since these are all stimulating activities, they really don’t help the brain relax and get relaxed and ready for bed.”
So how much sleep does your child need?
Doctors say elementary school kids need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep. By the age of 10 or 11, parents should aim for their children to get around 10 hours of sleep.
Teens should aim for 7 to 9 hours, but this age group often struggles with getting very little sleep during the week and trying to “catch up” on weekends.
Sleep deprivation also makes it harder for students to study. Here are some key things that doctors now say parents need to watch out for at any age:
- Difficult for the child to wake up in the morning
- The child sleeps in the car, bus or in class
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- loss of interest
- behavioral problems
- Hyperactivity (especially in young children)
If teachers see these problems occurring every day at school, they should be reported to parents.
If you need guidance for your child, contact your pediatrician or visit the National Sleep Foundation website for more information.