Why Back-To-School Is A Critical Time For Children’s Sleep Habits

By Sara Lappe, M.D.

Originally published in U.S. News & World Report

If your child wakes up before the alarm clock (even if you’d prefer they didn’t), it’s a good sign he or she is getting adequate sleep. But if you set three alarms and still have to drag your child out of bed in the morning, it’s time to work on some back-to-school sleep habits.

The start of school is a critical time to get kids adjusted to a consistent sleep schedule. Most children become used to staying up a little later and sleeping in more frequently during the summer, but as school approaches it’s important to move bedtime up and get back into a routine. Inadequate sleep is a frequent problem that worsens as school starts, and it’s a problem that leads to both tired kids and parents – a very unhealthy combination.

Too little sleep has been associated with behavior issues, including ADHD, hyperactivity ​and mood swings. Studies have consistently linked even mild sleep deprivation with academic underachievement, concentration difficulties and lower test performance and overall school performance. Poor sleep is also associated with poor eating habits and obesity. School-aged children ​need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night, ​and many children are getting only 7 to 8 hours per night – sometimes even less.

Many parents are sleep deprived themselves and think the symptoms of sleep deprivation are completely normal. As a result, they aren’t even aware their children are not getting enough shut-eye.

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