While there is still some warm weather left, September and all that comes with it is just around the corner – including back to school. For a second year, returning to classrooms may look a little different thanks to Covid, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of sleep as kids head back.
With the long summer days and more relaxed schedules comes later bedtimes and more sleeping in for kids (and sometimes parents, no judgements here!). However, getting back to school means it’s also time to get back to a healthy sleep schedule. In fact, it’s recommended that children 6-12 years regularly sleep 9-12 hours and teenagers 13-18 years sleep 8-10 hours. Despite this, the CDC found that 60% of middle school students and 70% of high school students are not getting enough sleep.
And while you probably remember hearing from your own parents it’s important to get a good night’s sleep before a big test, science proves the old adage to be true! Researchers found that a night of restful sleep was related to better outcomes in math and language. That’s because we leverage what scientists call “executive functions” when using math and language skills, which are housed in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, an area sensitive to lack of sleep.
Good grades may be motivation enough, but not getting sufficient sleep is also associated with several other issues, including “increased risk of car accidents, sports injuries, poor academic performance, poor regulation of mood, substance abuse, risky behaviors, anxiety and depression, and obesity,” according to Dr. Stephanie Stahl, a sleep medicine physician.
So how can you help your kids get back to sleep for back to school?
First, implementing a bed time and keeping a consistent schedule is key. If your child has gotten used to staying up later, try working backwards in 15- or 30-minute increments over the course of a few days, until you reach the right bedtime.
Importantly, try to avoid blue light exposure from phones, tablets and other devices before bed. Blue light suppresses melatonin production, making it more difficult for kids to fall asleep. If your kids are using devices before bed (or anytime of day), protect them by using a screen protector like EyeJust, which blocks blue light at the source.
And finally, create a routine to help them unwind! Whether it’s a story or snuggle, build in time to calm down to help your little ones get ready to sleep.
Just remember, whether its bedtime or any other back-to-school challenge – you got this!