Help Your Children Get The Rest They Need For The Upcoming School Year

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LIVINGSTON – Getting the right amount of sleep each night is important for children’s health, safety and success in school and other activities. The start of the school year is a good time to make sure your children are getting the sleep they need.

“Helping ensure that your child gets enough sleep once school begins will help them focus on their school work and have a healthier, safer, and more productive school year,” says Barry A. Cohen, M.D., a pediatric and adult sleep specialist with The Center for Sleep Disorders at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. “Elementary school-aged children require 8-11 hours sleep, and teenagers still need at least 8 hours. Less sleep can cause concentration and behavioral problems.”


In the past, little attention has been paid to the sleep habits of children. But growing evidence shows that a lack of sleep can lead to tiredness, attention problems, irritability, frustration and difficulty controlling emotions and impulses. Disorders such as snoring or leg movements have been found to interrupt and shorten sleep.

According to Dr. Cohen, it is best for parents to begin changing their children’s sleep schedules a few weeks before school starts. He suggests limiting nap times and moving bedtimes back 15 minutes every few days until you reach the time you would like your child to go to sleep during the school year.

Dr. Cohen reminds parents that providing proper sleep is as necessary as food and shelter, and while children enjoy staying up late, parents must be responsible to put them in bed at an appropriate time. “School readiness is very linked to being awake in the morning for classes,” he explains.

To help parents plan a back to school sleep schedule, The National Sleep Foundation and The Center for Sleep Disorders at Saint Barnabas offer the following tips that should be maintained throughout the school year.

Begin the routine now. Parents should start their child’s school sleep routine at least one to two weeks before opening day by introducing a gradual change in their child’s sleep schedule, such as going to bed 15 minutes earlier every three to four days. This can make it easier for children to adjust their sleeping patterns to meet the new school schedule.

Establish a regular bedtime and wake up time. Parents and children should plan a daily schedule that includes the basic daily sleep requirements for particular age groups. This schedule should be maintained on the weekends, though students can be permitted to sleep in one or two hours on weekend mornings if necessary. While individual sleep needs can vary, the amount of sleep suggested by sleep experts for particular age groups is:

  • A bedtime before 8:30 p.m. for children 10 years and less
  • Elementary School Students 10-12 hours/night
  • Pre-teens (middle/junior high school) 9-11 hours/night
  • Teens 8.5-9.5 hours/night
  • Remember to add 10-20 minutes to bedtime for falling asleep

Create a bedtime routine. Bedtime routines are important, regardless of a child’s age. It should include at least 15-30 minutes of calm, soothing activities. Prior to bedtime, encourage quiet time with some relaxing activities. Limit television, video, telephone and computer use, and avoid caffeine (found in beverages, chocolate and other products).

Achieve a balanced schedule. Identify and prioritize activities that allow for downtime and sufficient sleep time. Help students avoid an overloaded schedule that can lead to stress and difficulty coping, which contribute to poor health and sleep problems.

Become a sleep advocate. Take steps to encourage:

  • scheduling of events to help children keep their sleep schedules
  • appropriate school start times, and
  • a sleep curriculum in health and biology classes to help students better understand the importance of sleep to their overall health, safety, and quality of their lives

The Center for Sleep Disorders at Saint Barnabas has accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and offers a full range of services used in the evaluation, diagnosis and management of sleep-related disorders in children and adults. The Center, named a best sleep facility in the nation by ADVANCE magazine, is designed to handle children of all ages and offers comfortable rooms which easily accommodate an extra bed for a parent/guardian. For more information, call 1-973-322-9800.

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