Sleep smart: Tips for a back-to-school sleep schedule

It’s back-to-school time! For most children and teens, the end of summer signals the end of late bedtimes, sleepovers, and sleeping in. To help avoid heated battles around bedtime, here is some advice on helping your kids get on a back-to-school sleep routine:

  • Determine how much sleep your child or teenager needs. While everyone is different, most school-age children need about 10-12 hours per night, while teenagers require about 8.5-9.5 hours. Unfortunately, many children do not get enough sleep each night – and it often shows in their classroom performance.  Aside from poor academic performance, sleep deprived students are also more likely to develop behaviour problems and attention issues, and have more difficulty learning and remembering new skills.
  • Use light exposure (or lack of it) to your advantage. To help ensure children are really awake in the morning, rather than groggy or half-asleep, they should be exposed to bright light in the morning. This means opening blinds or curtains, and ideally getting outside for some walking or another light activity.  Likewise, as bedtime approaches, keep your kids away from light-emitting devices such as televisions, computers, and cell phones to help them fall asleep faster. With little exposure to light, the brain produces a sleep-inducing hormone – melatonin.
  • After school starts, it is best to follow a regular sleep schedule throughout the year by going to bed and waking up at nearly the same time everyday (even on weekends.) This will help to optimize sleep and allow your body to get in a rhythm.
  • If your child has difficulty sleeping due to nightmares, anxiety, or experiences problems like bedwetting, it is best to consult your physician or a sleep specialist.

Don’t let bedtime become a point of friction this year.  Get your child to bed on time and help them to stay alert and be ready to learn each morning!