Research has shown that a good nights sleep will enhance your childs performance in school, improve reading and math skills, keep them healthier, prevent cavities, foster attention, reduce conflict and reduce accidents, said Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, parent educator and author of Sleepless in America. And best of all, its free, said the director of parentchildhelp.com.
The key thing you can do for your child is to make sure they go to sleep and wake up well rested to be successful in school, Sheedy Kurcinka said.
As we transition into a new school year, start things off right. Heres Sheedy Kurcinkas checklist for better sleep:
1 Eliminate the electronics. Theyre disrupting your childs sleep. Have an electronics wind down before bed because the blue light is keeping kids awake. Phones and tablets should be left on the kitchen counter because kids cannot resist checking in before bed or if they wake in the night. That goes for televisions, too. Research shows that kids with TVs in their rooms score lower in reading and math. Ban such electronics from the bedroom.
2 Find out what your childs sleep needs are. It varies by age and is impacted by lifestyle and health. Kids often get the right amount of sleep in the summer when they dont have to wake early for school and arent stressed with homework and latenight practices and activities. Parents should monitor their childs sleep. If a child is waking up wellrested and on his own, hes getting the right amount, unless your child is a perpetual early riser.
The National Sleep Foundation offers these ruleofthumb sleep guidelines:
Preschoolers (35 years): 1113 hours
Schoolage children (510): 1011 hours
Teens (1017): 8.59.25 hours
3 A good nights sleep starts in the morning. Have a regular wakeup time, Kurcinka said. If you have to wake your child up and drag them out of bed, they havent gotten enough sleep.
4 Keep a regular diet like the one suggested by the Ellyn Satter Institute. A child should get six small meals a day: breakfast, midmorning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and a bedtime snack. Snacks should be filling but not thrilling. Crackers and water or cookies are ineffective snacks. Good snacks are sustaining and include protein, fat and carbohydrate.
5 Avoid caffeine in sodas, fancy coffee drinks and chocolate. A childs body cannot process caffeine in the same way an adult can, so a soda at lunch can affect bedtime eight hours later.
6 Keep a regular schedule with established mealtimes to benefit healthy sleep patterns. Weekends count, too, because irregular sleep schedules can affect the bodys biological clock. Sleeping poorly on the weekend results in kids having a more difficult time in school during the week.
7 Make the bedroom a sleep retreat. It should be cool, dark and quiet with good bedding and a comfortable mattress. Remove televisions, phones, computers and video games.
8 Help kids wake up by exposing them to morning light for a few minutes before school. Light helps set the body clock and improves focus and attention, so let them play or exercise before heading off to school. Walking to school is a great way to wake up the body and mind.
9 Say goodnight to your child. Kids whose parents monitor their bedtime get better sleep.
10 Puberty shifts the body clock and can make it hard for kids to fall asleep. Kids who are going through puberty are not being difficult when they dont get to sleep, its physiological.