News Release

August 20, 2007

Contact: Christopher DeFrancesco, 860-679-3914

Back to School, Back to Bed

But UConn Sleep Expert Says Wake-Up Time Is the Key

FARMINGTON, CONN. – One of the most important things parents can do to prepare their children for the new school year is get their kids off of the summer clock, according to the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

Moving bed time up gradually each night leading to the first day of school is an effective strategy. But more crucial than that, says Daniel McNally, M.D., is what happens the following morning.

“If you’re up until midnight all summer then try to go to bed at 9 o’clock on the first school night, it doesn’t work,” McNally says. “The answer to resetting your body’s clock is to go with what works for biology, and the force that shapes your wake and sleep times is the time you get up. Get up at a fixed time in the morning and get lots of light when you awaken, and that will help shift your clock. Starting a shift back to a consistent awakening time now rather than waiting until the day before school starts will make for a more comfortable transition.”

Light exposure first thing in the morning goes a long way in overcoming sleep phase delay, which is especially common among high school students. McNally says if their body clocks had their way, they’d fall asleep at midnight or later and sleep for hours past school’s opening bell.

“The image I have of a typical high school student is someone who fell asleep after midnight,” McNally says. “When his alarm goes off, he hits the snooze bar three, four, five times, and when he finally gets up his eyes are barely open. He leaves for school with sunglasses on and a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his eyes. It may be several hours before he gets the kind of light exposure that makes him truly awake and alert, and therefore less cranky and more receptive to not only learning, but human interaction.”

McNally also recommends keeping sleep and wake times consistent throughout the seven days of the week, maintaining a sleeping environment that’s dark, comfortable and free of distractions, and avoiding caffeine, particularly in the evening.

More information about the UConn Health Center’s Sleep Disorders Center is available at:

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