By Karen Rollins, RRT, RPSGT, Coordinator, Roper St. Francis Sleep Lab
Do you rely on that second or third cup of coffee to make it through the day?
Try being a young, growing student with the same problem. Daytime fatigue is often a result of a poor night’s sleep.
Three-quarters of adults report having at least one ongoing issue with sleep during the year, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Imagine a child that has the same problem. Being so tired that he or she can’t function at a normal level is dangerous. With school around the corner bringing another change to the daily routine, the sleep patterns established over the summer can be hard to break.
It's astounding to hear from the NSF that 69 percent of children aged 10 and under experience some type of sleep problem. Most parents don’t know that kids aged 5-12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Less than 10 hours of sleep can impair academic performance placing a child at risk for falling behind in school as well as increase the risk for physical injuries and obesity.
So how do you handle the shift in routine and sleep schedule? Other than the obvious – limiting caffeine and sugar intake, you can:
• Be consistent. Pick a bedtime and stick to it daily. Eventually a child will get into the rhythm and become sleepy at the same time each day. This goes for mornings, too. Make sure the child gets up at the same time everyday to establish a sleep/wake routine.
• Avoid gadgets and gizmos. Most children – even young ones – have some sort of electronic device in their rooms. Turn off iPods, gaming devices, cell phones and TVs. Some sleep specialists recommend that TVs not even be placed in bedrooms. The forced quiet and lack of electricity in the room will create a calming environment.
• Create a dark room. The absence of light is the best environment to trigger the body’s natural sleep mechanisms. If your child needs a nightlight, find one that gives a calming glow. Choose a blue or soft white bulb. Keep in mind that reducing exposure to light increases melatonin levels, which is an important hormone that aids sleep.
• Send them to their rooms. Don’t allow your children to sleep anywhere other than their sleep space. Shifting sleep locations, such as to the couch, your bed, or an armchair can disrupt the sleep pattern of even a heavy sleeper.
• Establish a ritual. Find something fun or special to share with your child at bedtime. Reading a book or making up a story together are fun rituals that can help the child transition from being active to preparing for sleep. Not to mention it gives them something to look forward to.
While summer is the perfect time for a more carefree and fun schedule, we advise parents to start a consistent bedtime ritual 7 – 10 days before school starts so that the child is already in a good sleep/wake routine and ready for the new school year. Because if you snooze in school, you lose.
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