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Millions of American children will soon be back in school – and good sleep hygiene should be part of their daily routine to keep them healthy.
But it’s never too early to get them into the healthy practice of getting enough good quality sleep every night.
“Sleeping the recommended number of hours regularly is associated with better health outcomes, including improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health,” the American Academy of Sleep Medicine said in a consensus statement.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reminds families to be good examples for their children.
“Making sleep a priority for yourself shows your children that it’s part of a healthy lifestyle — like proper nutrition and regular exercise,” according to HealthyChildren.org, operated by the AAP.
Getting enough sleep every night is part of a healthy lifestyle – and parents need to model this for their children.
Here’s some wise advice for parents and guardians.
Maintain a regular routine
Start early with young children, the AAP suggests, by setting a bedtime schedule, such as the Bursh, Book, Bed program developed by the pediatric association.
“Same wake-up, meal, nap, and play times will help your child feel safe and comfortable and ensure a smooth bedtime,” according to the AAP.
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“Make sure the sleep routines you use can be used anywhere so you can help your child fall asleep anywhere.”
Create a good sleeping environment
Children should use their bed as a place to sleep — not as a place to play, the AAP says.
Limit screen time by turning off all screens at least 60 minutes before bed, the association says.
Help kids fall asleep at night by sticking to a routine and creating a good sleeping environment – and follow other smart tips shared here.
To create a good sleeping environment, dim the lights before bedtime, control the temperature in the room, and avoid having too many toys in the child’s bed.
The exception to this would be a child’s favorite doll or security blanket, which can help alleviate separation anxiety.
Babies should not be put to bed with juice, milk or formula as these can cause tooth decay, although water is fine.
Parents should also avoid giving infants solid foods before the age of six months; this can give them a “stomach ache” – they may not be able to sleep well.
Limit the schedule of evening activities, such as B. Sports games, appointments and classes, which can affect the sleep patterns of children.
But “after a child hits puberty, a natural shift in their circadian rhythm occurs” at about two hours or so, said Dr. Baljinder S. Sidhu, a pulmonologist and sleep specialist who is co-owner of the Pacific Coast Critical Care Group in Southern California.
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He told Fox Digital News that this is known as a “sleep phase delay,” which parents can confuse with insomnia. It may be associated with difficulty getting up in the morning.
“We see it as ‘late to bed, late to wake’.”
Limit activities in the evening
For the 2022-23 school year, the state of California became the first state to mandate that public schools must begin later that year for high and middle school children.
The AAP has advocated for schools to have later start times so children are more alert and healthier.
Most teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night; Pre-teens take about 10 hours, said Dr. Jason Bronstein, a medical director for pediatric sleep.
Under the law the California state legislature passed in 2019 and went into effect July 1 of this year, the school day cannot begin until 8:30 a.m. for most high school students and 8:00 a.m. for most middle school students.
“While we must acknowledge the increased burden that post-schooling places on working parents, the scientific rationale is well-intentioned,” Sidhu told Fox Digital News.
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AAP also recommends limiting your schedule for evening activities, such as sports games, appointments, and classes, which can affect sleep patterns.
Parents should also ensure that children get plenty of exercise and fresh air. But parents should watch out for snoring, trouble falling asleep, nocturnal awakenings or a sluggish bedtime, as these can be signs of trouble sleeping in children.
How many hours of sleep does a child need?
“Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, but generally younger children need more sleep,” said Dr. Jason Bronstein, Medical Director of Pediatric Sleep at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital in New York City.
He noted that “if your child is tired, irritable, has trouble concentrating, or falls asleep during the day” — then that child likely needs “more sleep.”
Parents must also ensure that their children get plenty of exercise and fresh air.
(AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File)
“Most teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep; Pre-teens need about 10 hours; younger school-age children may need 11 hours; Preschoolers need 11 or 12 hours (including naps); infants 12 or 13 hours (including naps); and toddlers take 12 to 16 hours (including naps),” he said.
“A good night’s sleep involves slow sleep (deep sleep) early in the night and increasing REM sleep (dream sleep) into the morning,” Sidhu added.
“Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, but generally younger children need more sleep.”
“The lack of REM sleep has been linked to poor memory, mood disorders such as anxiety/depression,” he said, “as well as an overall decrease in daytime functioning.”
Know that the quantity and quality of sleep are important
“Good sleep requires a fairly consistent schedule, including meals, activities, bedtimes, and sleep/wake times,” said Bronstein, who is also an assistant professor of sleep medicine and pediatric pulmonology in the division of pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai.
Children’s schedules should ideally not vary by more than an hour from weekdays to weekends, he said, to maximize the quality of their sleep.
“Most families,” said one doctor, “have a later appointment in the summer.” That’s why it’s wise to move “to an earlier schedule” before school starts in the fall.
“It’s important to dim the lights, turn off electronics, and calm down before bed—tidy up, read a book, etc.”
Adjust sleeping habits in summer
“Most families have a later schedule in the summer,” Bronstein said.
For these reasons, he suggested that “moving to an earlier timetable before school starts is helpful”.
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As the start of the school year approaches, he suggested that the children get up earlier than they do in the summer, a week or two before school starts.
This will make the transition back to school smoother.
“Moving to an earlier schedule is helpful before school starts.”
“Help motivate your child by finding reasons to get up early — and be consistent even when there’s no other valid reason to get up early, even on weekends,” he said.
“Encourage your child to get outside in the morning and expose themselves to bright lights to help fuel their circadian rhythm.”
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But if a child’s sleep doesn’t improve despite these recommendations, or the child isn’t rested despite good sleep hygiene, then it’s a good idea to talk to the pediatrician, Bronstein advises.