Sleep doesn’t always come easy. Homework, activities, technology and socializing cut into the night, and even if kids get to bed early, there’s often tossing and turning that many students endure with school in full swing. Dennis Rosen, M.D., associate medical director, Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, Boston Children's Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, gives tips to help your family settle into the school year well rested. Dr. Rosen, who's also the author of Sleep Tight (Without the Fight): Helping Your Child Get a Better Night’s Sleep (to be published by Harvard Health Publications in 2013), reveals what not to do on weekends.
What should parents do when their kids can't sleep because they’re anxious about school?
Dr. Dennis Rosen: It’s a good idea to try and talk through the underlying issues on their mind before your kids go to bed. This can reduce the anxiety and keep it from “climbing into bed” with them and interfering with sleep.
How can parents help grade school age children develop good sleep patterns?
Dr. Rosen: Consistency. Keep kids on a regular schedule; reduce or avoid media exposure in the last couple of hours of the evening; encourage children to read quietly in bed the last 15-30 minutes before bed with a low intensity reading lamp. Elementary school kids need between nine-and-a-half and 10-and-a-half hours of sleep a night.
What are some mistakes parents make when it comes to their kids' sleep needs?
Dr. Rosen: Kids need to be on a schedule. It’s probably best not to let kids sleep in more than one hour later than usual on weekends. Allowing kids (especially teens) to sleep in on the weekends, often several hours later than their usual wake-up time for school, shifts their internal clocks back and sets the stage for “Monday morning jetlag” that can sometimes take the whole week to overcome.
What tips do you have for teens and tweens who have trouble falling asleep?
Dr. Rosen: Avoid caffeine consumption past noon. Keep school work out of the bed (and if possible, out of the bedroom). Remove computers, televisions and cell phones from the bedroom one hour before bedtime. Total sleep time is more important than bedtimes. Teens should be getting at least eight and probably closer to nine hours of sleep a night.
What are your thoughts on teens who sacrifice sleep for academics?
Dr. Rosen: Sleep is a physiologic need, no different than drinking or eating. Insufficient sleep affects physical and mental health, cognition, behavior and mood. With only 24 hours in a day, it’s important that your expectations of your child are realistic.
Are you worried that your kids don’t get enough sleep? Share your thoughts in Comments below.
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