School starts for many students next week according to doctors, they should be getting to bed earlier.
Doctors know that summer sleep schedules can get a little lackadaisical.
"A lot of families elect to follow the 'go to sleep when you feel like it and wake up when you feel like it' model,” said Dr. Susan Rubman, Sleep Disorder Center, Hospital Central Connecticut.
Rubman, a sleep specialist, said that while that kind of routine is not a bad thing because children tend to get enough sleep, it’s important to help them get back into “school” mode.
“Start now or start last week if you haven't started yet,” she said.
Rubman said it takes about two weeks to cement a new sleep pattern. She said if a parent wants their child to start waking up an hour earlier, change their bedtime in 15 to 20 minute chunks over a few days.
For example, if bedtime is usually 9:00 p.m., set it back to 8:45 p.m. the first night and then 8:30 p.m. the second.
“When we move our bed times and our wake up times back in 15 minute increments, it allows our body clock to adjust more slowly and more appropriately, and it increases the chance that we'll fall asleep at the time we need to,” Rubman said.
She also said that how much sleep kids and teens need is often at odds with how much they’re actually getting. She said they need between eight and nine hours. In teens, a lack of sleep has been linked to health risks like obesity, drinking alcohol and other drugs.
“Whether you get 20 or 30 minutes more sleep per night, that adds up over the course of the week. And over the course of the week a student may be getting two or three more hours more sleep per week,” Rubman said. “That's a very important difference."
She said for younger children who may struggle with adjusting to a new sleep schedule, make bedtime something to which they look forward.
“Establish a relaxing routine before bedtime,” she suggested. “A bath or a shower or a story for younger children, cuddle time, saying goodnight. Something special as children go to bed is really important."
She also suggested limiting a child’s intake of caffeine in the afternoon hours.
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