Long Branch, N.J.--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 Margaret C. Fisher, M.D., FAAP, Medical Director of The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center. “Most children require 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. 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.
Dr. Fisher reports that it is best for parents to begin changing their children’s sleep schedules a few weeks before school starts. She suggests limiting nap times and moving bedtimes back a half hour every few days until you reach the time you would like your child to go to sleep during the school year.
To help parents plan a back to school sleep schedule, The National Sleep Foundation and The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center 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 15-30 minutes earlier each night. 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:
o Elementary School Students 10-12 hours/night
o Pre-teens (middle/junior high school) 9-11 hours/night
o Teens 8.5-9.5 hours/night
o 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. Discourage television, exercise, computer and telephone 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.
• Be a role model. Parents and guardians can be role models for school aged children by establishing their own regular sleep schedule and a home environment conducive to healthy sleep habits
• Become a sleep advocate. Take steps to encourage:
o scheduling of events to help children keep their sleep schedules
o appropriate school start times, and
o 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 Sleep Disorders Center at Monmouth Medical Center
The Sleep Disorders Center offers a full range of services used in the evaluation, diagnosis and management of sleep-related disorders in adults and children and is the region’s first center in Monmouth and Ocean counties to be fully accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The Center is equipped with the latest monitoring equipment, providing the opportunity for full overnight sleep studies, as well as daytime testing. Robert Kosinski, M.D., FACP, FCCP, DABSM, is the area’s first board certified sleep specialist, and is Medical Director of the Sleep Disorders Center. For more information on The Sleep Disorders Center, call (732) 923-7660.
The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center
More than 130 pediatricians are affiliated with the Monmouth Medical Center’s pediatric attending staff; and more than half are subspecialty trained. The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center has extensive subspecialty outpatient services for children with chronic illnesses such as thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, neurological disorders, asthma and other respiratory problems. For a referral to a pediatrician or specialist from The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center, please call 1-888-724-7123.
CONTACT: Beth Salamon
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