SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Thousands of kids throughout the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry will have to ditch their unstructured summer sleep schedules as they head back to the classrooms over the coming weeks.
Parents should consider getting kids on a school year sleep schedule at least a week before the new academic year begins, according to Pediatric Associates of Savannah Pediatrician Brandy Gheesling, MD, CLC. FAAP.
To avoid attempting to change their sleep habits all at once, Gheesling tells News 3 that putting children to bed about 15 minutes earlier each evening is a good idea.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that kids in different age groups get a certain amount of shut-eye per day on a regular basis. According to the AASM, kids should be resting the following number of hours per 24-hour period:
- Infants 4-12 months should sleep 12-16 hours, including naps
- Children aged 1-2 years should sleep 11-14 hours, including naps
- Children aged 3-5 years should rest 10-13 hours daily, including naps
- Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9-12 hours
- Teenagers 13-18 years old should sleep 8-10 hours
When children don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to health problems and even a decline in their performance in the classroom, experts say.
“Kids can have trouble at school and trouble focusing,” Gheesling says. “It can cause irritability and can lead to long-term health problems, such as diabetes and obesity, so it’s really important to make sure kids are getting those recommended hours of sleep.”
Many kids can be mistakenly labeled with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because of sleep problems, Gheesling tells News 3.
“When we send them for testing, they don’t even have it,” she says. “Come to find out, it’s because they’re not getting the sleep they need every night, because it can interfere with their studies at school, being able to focus and paying attention just because they’re so tired.”
Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to help children adjust to getting the sleep that they need to succeed during the school year. Consistency is key, according to Gheesling.
“Definitely develop a bedtime routine where you do the same thing at the same time in the same order every night,” the parent-of-three recommends.
Shutting off all screens about 60 minutes before bedtime can help both kids and adults alike, as the screens produce a light that interferes with melatonin, which helps people doze off.
“An hour before bed, we definitely recommend staying away from the TV, cutting those phones off,” Gheesling says. She recommends putting devices in a central charging location away from the children’s bedrooms to avoid temptation.
Other advice to keep in mind includes having kids take warm baths or showers in the evening since the warm water will help them relax. “Then, maybe read a book, brush their teeth and lights out,” Gheesling says.
Dimming the lights at home when it approaches the child’s bedtime, limiting noise from the TV or other sources of sound and lowering the temperature in the house can all help kids fall asleep much easier.
“You want to make sure they have comfortable bedding and limit the amount of little toys they put in their beds, just so they can have a good environment to get some sleep,” Gheesling suggests.
In addition, she advises making sure your children aren’t having sleep issues.
“If they’re having trouble falling asleep, if they’re having multiple nighttime awakenings, if you notice they’re snoring, definitely talk to your pediatrician,” Gheesling says, adding, “Those are issues that need to be addressed so your child can get those recommended hours of sleep every night.”