Millions of children in America will soon be heading back to school — and good sleep hygiene should be part of their daily routines to keep them healthy.
But it’s never too soon to get them into the healthy habit of getting enough good sleep every night.
“Getting the recommended number of hours of sleep on a regular basis is associated with better health outcomes, including better attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health,” according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Consensus statement.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reminds families to set a good example for their children.
According to HealthyChildren.org, run by the AAP, “Making sleep a priority for yourself shows your child that it’s part of a healthy lifestyle — like eating right and exercising regularly.”
Here is some wise advice for parents and guardians.
Maintain a regular routine
Start early with young children, suggests the AAP, when it comes to setting a bedtime routine, such as the “Brush, Book, Bed” program developed by the Pediatric Association.
According to the AAP, “the same wake times, meal times, bedtimes, and play times will help your child feel safe and comfortable and sleep soundly.”
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“Make sure the sleep routines you use can be used anywhere, so you can help your child fall asleep wherever you are.”
Create a good sleep environment
Babies should use their bed as a place to sleep — not a place to play, says the AAP.
Limit screen time by turning off all screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime, the association also says.
To create a good sleep environment, dim the lights before bed, control the temperature in the room and avoid too many toys in the child’s bed.
An exception is a child’s favorite toy or security blanket, which can help reduce separation anxiety.
Babies should not be fed juice, milk or formula, as these can cause tooth decay, even if water is fine.
Parents should also avoid giving babies any solids before six months; This may give them a “stomach ache” – they may not sleep well.
Limit the schedule of evening activities, such as sports games, appointments, and lessons, that affect the child’s sleep patterns.
But “once children hit puberty, a natural shift in their circadian rhythm occurs within about two hours,” says sleep specialist Dr. Baljinder S. Sidhu, a pulmonologist and co-owner of Pacific Coast Critical Care Group at Southern. California.
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He told Fox Digital News it’s called “sleep phase delay,” which parents can mistake for insomnia. It is associated with difficulty getting up in the morning.
“We think of it as ‘late to bed, late to rise’.”
Limit evening activities
For the 2022-23 school year, the state of California has become the first state to require high school and middle school children to start public schools later this year.
The AAP advocates that schools should have later start times so that children are more alert and healthy.
A law passed by California legislators in 2019, which went into effect on July 1 of this year, would require most high schools to start the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
“Although we have to recognize the increased burden on parents who work after school hours, the scientific rationale is well-intentioned,” Sidhu told Fox Digital News.
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The AAP also recommends limiting the schedule of evening activities such as sports games, appointments, and lessons that affect sleep patterns.
Parents should also ensure that children get plenty of physical activity and fresh air. But parents should pay attention to snoring, difficulty falling asleep, nighttime waking or staying asleep, as these may be signs of sleep problems in children.
How many hours of sleep does a child need?
“Everyone is different in how much sleep they need, but in general, younger children need more sleep,” says Dr. Jason Bronstein, MD, medical director of pediatric sleep at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital in New York City.
He notes that “if your child is tired, cranky, has trouble concentrating, or sleeps during the day” — that child probably “needs more sleep.”
“Most teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep; pre-teens need 10 hours; younger school-aged children may need 11 hours; preschoolers 11 or 12 hours (including naps); toddlers 12 or 13 hours (including naps); and infants 12 16 hours (including naps) are required,” he said.
“A good night’s sleep increases slow wave sleep (deep sleep) and early morning REM (dream sleep),” Sidhu added.
“Everyone is different in how much sleep they need, but in general, younger children need more sleep.”
“Lack of REM sleep is associated with poorer memory, mood disorders such as anxiety/depression,” he says, “as well as an overall decrease in daytime functioning.”
Know that quantity and quality of sleep are important
“Quality sleep requires a very consistent schedule, including meals, activity, bedtime routine and bed/wake times,” said Bronstein, M.D., assistant professor of sleep medicine and pediatric pulmonology in the Department of Pediatrics at the Icon School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai
Children’s schedules should not vary by more than an hour from weekdays to weekend days, he said, to maximize their sleep quality.
“It’s important to dim the lights, turn off electronic devices, and do calming activities before bed — cleaning, reading a book, etc.”
Adjust sleep patterns during summer
“Most families are on a later schedule in the summer,” says Bronstein.
For these reasons, he suggests that “switching to an earlier schedule can be useful before the start of school.”
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As the start of the school year approaches, he suggests getting kids up earlier than in the summer, a week or two before school opens.
That way, going back to school is smooth.
“Switching to an earlier schedule helps before school starts.”
“Help motivate your child by coming up with reasons to get up early, even on weekends, even if there’s no other compelling reason to get up early,” he says.
“Encourage your child to go outside to get bright light early in the morning to help advance your child’s circadian rhythm.”
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But if a child’s sleep isn’t improving despite these recommendations, or if a child isn’t resting well despite good sleep hygiene, it’s a smart idea to talk to a pediatrician about it, Bronstein recommends.