Set the alarm to ‘school’
School is right around the corner, and parents already should be thinking about getting their children back in the routine, especially when it comes to sleep.
Dr. Dave Pitonzo, associate professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, was a practicing pediatrician for 30 years and a doctor of pediatric molecular medicine. He said sleep hygiene is just as important as personal hygiene.
“It’s recommended that (children) don’t do anything to break the cycle,” Pitonzo said. “About four to seven days ahead of time, they need to start to reset, for most children.”
Pitonzo said children of elementary-school age, 10 or younger, should get 10 hours of sleep each night. Middle schoolers, 10-13, should get nine hours and, although controversial, teens should get between eight and nine hours of sleep each night.
“As (teenagers) start hormonal changes they go through, their melatonin secretions in the brain are delayed,” he said. “Normally people get squirts of melatonin which makes you sleepy. Teens don’t get that, and their school schedules don’t recognize that, which makes it tough when physiologically their bodies are not ready for class at 7 a.m.”
Pitonzo said it is key to establish and keep a bedtime, even on weekends, so the body won’t have to do a four- to seven-day reset each week. He also advises that children of all ages stay away from caffeinated beverages after 4 p.m. and try to stay away from mentally stimulating activities like action shows and video games late at night.
“We also try to keep kids from snoozing during the day,” he said. “They get home from school and they want to crash because they’re so tired because they didn’t get great sleep the night before. Discourage that nap. And when they wake up, make sure it is not in a really dark room so when the sun rises the brain can say ‘OK, it’s time to get up.’”
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