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Start the school year right with 'healthy sleep'

Stacey Zell, RT is coordinator of the Sleep Center at Northfield Hospital. Photo courtesy Northfield Hospital & Clinics

Stacey Zell, RT is coordinator of the Sleep Center at Northfield Hospital, in Northfield, Minn. Reach the Sleep Center at 507-646-1099.

Waking up for school can be tough on kids and parents. Shifting from summer to a busy (early!) school routine makes it tempting to cut corners on sleep.

But kids age 5 to 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep per night, and teenagers often fall short of the 8-10 hours of sleep they need each night. And it's more than mere hours that matters. "Healthy sleep" requires appropriate timing, daily regularity, good sleep quality and the absence of sleep disorders, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Here are some tips to help your kids get the quantity — and quality — of sleep they need as they return to school:

For kids up to 12:

• Set a regular bedtime.

• If they've been staying up late, move towards the new bedtime gradually, about 20 minutes earlier every 2-3 days. Kids who have been staying up until 10 or 11 p.m. can't be expected to shift to a 9 p.m. lights-out all at once.

• Limit caffeine in the afternoon and evening, preferably none after 2 p.m.

• Avoid serving big dinners close to bedtime.

• Create a calming nighttime routine. A warm bath, a good book and a quiet bedside chat signal to your child's mind and body that it's time to sleep.

• Skip video games and television — they're too stimulating before bedtime.

For teens:

• Set a regular bedtime. Yes, high schoolers, even you. We never outgrow the benefits of having a regular bedtime.

• Limit caffeine — no later than 2 p.m.

• Create a media-free zone. Turn off cellphones, iPads, laptops, TVs and video games at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

• Relax before bedtime. Consider meditation, yoga or other relaxation techniques. Aromatherapy scents such as orange blossom, chamomile and lavender promote sleep.

• Keep the bedroom dark and quiet. Put your phone charger in a different room. Turn the clock away from the bed. Shut the bedroom door.

• Bring light in when awakening. Open the shades and turn on the lights as you awake.

• If you are sick, go to bed.

If your teen still struggles to fall asleep or to wake up at appropriate times, there may be other issues involved. Talk with your family's health care provider to explore the underlying causes that are keeping your from getting healthy sleep.

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