News Release

August 17, 2005

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Back to School Means Changing Summer Sleep Habits

Tips for Kids and Parents for Easier Transition

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Preparing for the first day of school involves more than buying school supplies and new clothes. At the top of the list should be well-rested children, and now is the time to get kids on a school sleep schedule, says Daniel McNally, M.D., at the UConn Health Center. “There is nothing that will make a child better prepared for the first day of school, or any school day, than a good night’s sleep,” said Dr. McNally. “Kids who regularly get enough sleep will be alert, congenial, patient, and ready to learn.”

Dr. McNally, who is an expert in sleep and sleep disorders, suggests that parents make bedtime 10 to 15 minutes earlier each day until the ideal bedtime is reached. “If your grammar-school aged children stay up until 10 and wake up at 9, you need to scale back a couple of hours on bedtime, working to an earlier time in a gradual fashion,” said McNally. “Kids between ages 5 and 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep, but you can’t fix that the day before school starts.”

As for teens, Dr. McNally recognizes the challenge parents face. “Teens need eight to nine hours of sleep, but their internal clock contradicts existing school timetables,” said Dr. McNally. “They would much rather stay up later and sleep later.”

There are high schools that are starting school later and others considering doing the same, he said, and extended daylight savings time, which goes into effect in 2006, will better complement teens’ internal clocks.

Meanwhile, it’s important that parents encourage their teenagers to get to bed at a reasonable hour and to have a consistent time of awakening – seven days a week, said Dr. McNally.

New schedules will affect the entire family and parents may have to adjust their sleep habits as well, said Dr. McNally. “Everyone will be in high gear, stress levels will go up,” he said. “Parents have to be ready to deal with anxious kids and various schedules. They should get a good night’s sleep.”

Dr. McNally shares these tips for parents from The National Sleep Foundation:

  • Impress upon your children the importance of sleep. Make sure sleeping feels like a good thing, never a punishment.
  • Know how much sleep your kids need and take the necessary steps to ensure they get it.
  • Teach your kids good sleep habits. Set a regular bedtime and give the child a comfortable sleeping space that is cool, quiet and dark.
  • Computers and TVs can distract children from sleeping. Keep them out of the bedroom.
  • Colas, energy drinks and other beverages contain caffeine and should be avoided by children.

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