Rupali Drewek, MD
Specializing in Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine

Back to School, Back to Sleep Routines

Summer vacation is nearly over, and it's time for the new school year to resume. In anticipation of the return to school, it is important to remind ourselves of the importance of good sleep habits for kids.

From elementary school through high school and beyond, many children are chronically sleep-deprived. Adolescent sleepiness is so common that it almost seems normal! As a general rule of thumb, adolescents should be getting at least eight hours of sleep per night. 

Surveys suggest that more than two-thirds of adolescents are not getting enough sleep. Why are teens not getting enough sleep? There are several reasons for this.

Adolescents’ biological clocks reset so that they their brains naturally work on later schedules. Sometimes this delay in the sleep-wake cycle is so severe that it affects a person's daily functioning.  In those cases, it's called delayed sleep phase syndrome. 

To fuel the matter, stimulating activities such as watching television, texting on phones or working on the computer keep teens awake. Though bedtimes get later and later, the biological need for sleep in adolescents does not decrease with age. 

What are the consequences of insufficient sleep?  Many studies have shown that poor sleep and bad bedtime habits have a significant negative effect on academic performance. Lack of sleep adversely affects memory, learning and motivation. Poor sleepers are reportedly more depressed, tired, tense, moody and irritable as compared to good sleepers. Low sleep time has been directly linked to aggression and delinquent behavior.

Given the prevalence and enormous impact of sleep problems on daytime functioning, we should all regularly look at our own children to see if they are getting the sound sleep they deserve.  School age children should be sleeping eight to nine hours per night. Early intervention is extremely important. If you notice signs such as snoring, gasping for air, restlessness, nighttime awakenings, daytime sleepiness and/or frequent headaches, a sleep evaluation in a sleep clinic might be warranted. Visit our website for more information on the sleep clinic at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Tips for Better Sleep:

  1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time throughout the week, including weekends.
  2. Avoid stimulating activities prior to bed including computer, television or cell phone.
  3. Avoid caffeinated beverages six hours before bedtime.
  4. Establish a relaxing pre-sleep ritual such as warm bath, or reading.
  5. Keep the bedroom dark, quiet and cool.
  6. Avoid caffeine or exercise just before bedtime.
  7. Infants and children should be put to bed when they appear tired but still awake (rather than falling asleep in a parent's arms, or in another room). Avoid getting into bed with your child in order to get him or her to sleep.

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