Sleep experts are urging parents to start adjusting their child’s sleep schedule now if they want them to avoid feeling jet lagged for the first few weeks of school.
Professor Dorothy Bruck, Sleep Psychologist, Victoria University said, “Getting students back into early morning starts for school can be difficult. For some, moving from a holiday routine to a school routine is like travelling across a three hour time zone.”
International studies have shown that an alarming four out of ten high school students report levels of daytime sleepiness well beyond the normal range. For most of these students the reason is simply not getting enough sleep.
Professor Bruck said, “Children and teenagers are often only getting about seven hours sleep each night, yet experts recommend nine hours for teenagers and more for 5 – 12 year olds.
Dr David Hillman, President, Sleep Health Foundation said, “Getting enough sleep is really important if parents want their child to be able to do their best at school.
“Research has shown that students who don’t get enough sleep have difficulty understanding lessons, and struggle to complete assignments, class tests and exams.
“If students are tired they are also more likely to experience negative moods, become irritable and less able to tolerate stress. In addition, poor sleep has been linked to weight gain and depression.”
Professor Bruck explained that parents have an important role to play in teaching their children to value sleep. “Sleep is as important as healthy food and exercise, parents can help their children look forward to going to bed by getting them ready for bed in good time and ensuring that the hour before bed is wind-down time. They will then start to feel ready for sleep and look forward to going to bed.
“Research consistently shows that watching television or using computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices in the bedroom before going to sleep leads to later bedtimes and takes longer to fall asleep,” Professor Bruck warned.
The blue light from computer screens suppresses the melatonin hormone that is required to make people feel sleepy. On the other hand having a warm bath or shower, chatting or reading are good pre-bed activities.
Professor Bruck said, “It is important that parents discuss with their children what their evening activities and sleep/wake schedule will be once school goes back and start working towards that schedule.”
How to Re-Programme your Child’s Sleep Habits
- Gradually move the getting up time forward to the time they would get up on a school day
- Expose the child to bright sunlight shortly after getting up. Bright light will suppress their morning levels of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone and reset their body clock
- Gradually move the going to bed time forward so they can get at least nine hours sleep before they have to get up
- Try and maintain the school night schedule on weekend nights as many teenagers move through a two or three hour time zone every weekend, giving them jet lag at the beginning of each school week
Source: Sleep Health Foundation