Sue’s Morning Stretch: Set school sleep habits now

SHARE Sue’s Morning Stretch: Set school sleep habits now

As August would progress, my mom would bring us in from outside earlier and earlier and make us go to bed. She’d even put sheets over the windows to block out the light. And then each morning, she’d get us up earlier and earlier, too.

We hated it and tried to get her to stop, but she could not be dissuaded, saying we were getting ready for school to begin.

Well, guess what? Mom was right, says Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

With the new school year beginning soon, parents should start getting kids used to the schedule they are going to have to keep. Those days of staying up late and sleeping in? Sorry kids, it’s time to end them.

Get them to bed 15 minutes earlier each night and up 15 minutes earlier each morning. It’ll have a positive impact on their school year, according to Morgenthaler, who’s a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic.

School age children need 10 to 11 hours a night. Adolescents who THINK they can get by with a whole lot less are wrong. They need more than nine, according to Morgenthaler.

It’s well-researched that children who get enough sleep are healthier and “tend to get better grades,” he says.

The right environment is a must for sleeping too, according to Morgenthaler. “Enforce dark hours,” he recommends, and that means turning off cellphones, tablets and laptops.

“You can’t be sleeping if you’re texting,” he says.

The doctor has five children of his own, so he gets how attached they are to their electronic devices. That’s when parents have to step in. If you have a child, as he does, who has a hard time tearing himself away from the electronics, then it’s time to tell him “your stuff is parked in my room.”

Consistent mealtimes help, too, according to Morgenthaler. An added bonus for parents for enforcing all this routine? “They might find themselves getting better sleep, too,” he says.

The bedtime routine and hours should be followed throughout the year, not just for those first few weeks when we’re all on our best behavior. You don’t want your children going through the school year sleepy.

“Is that really fair to the student?” Morgenthaler asks.

However, if after setting sleep hours and habits a child still has problems getting proper sleep, a parent should consider a sleep specialist, Morgenthaler says. Visit www.sleepeducation.org for guidance.

— Sue Ontiveros

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