Getting back into a sleep routine can be good for your health

special to the Herald-LeaderAugust 24, 2013 

LEE P.THOMAS 859-229-1937

With schools across the state back in session, fall sports kicking off and families getting back into their routines after a carefree summer, sleep schedules may not be top priority, but they should be.

Getting enough sleep directly correlates with good health. According to research by the National Sleep Foundation, the vast majority of both adults and children fail to get the recommended amount of rest.

Preschoolers require 11-13 hours of sleep. Children between the ages of 5 and 12 need 10-11 hours. Adolescents up to age 19 need about 8 ½ to 10 hours of sleep each night. Adults need a minimum of 7½ hours to be at their best.

Children who get the recommended amount of sleep are likely to be emotionally and physically healthier than those who don't. The proper amount of rest ensures children are alert and at their best in the classroom and on the sports field.

In the long-term, children with chronic sleep deprivation are more likely to have difficulties learning, paying attention or to exhibit symptoms of attention deficit disorder and depression. They are also more likely to be overweight.

Evidence also suggests that teenagers are especially sleep deprived. A recent poll by the NSF found that 60 percent of children under age 18 complained of being tired during the day, and 15 percent said they fell asleep at school at least once during the year.

Here are some tips to help kids ease into a school-time sleep schedule and maintain healthy sleep habits throughout the year:

■ Getting up with the sun after several months of staying up late and sleeping in can be a shock to your child's system. If possible, adjust gradually. For example, try moving up bedtime by 15-30 minutes a week for four weeks rather than instituting a 1-2 hour change all at once.

■ Don't rely on the weekend to catch up on sleep. Try to stick to a set bedtime schedule seven days a week, within reason. Don't let kids sleep too late on weekend mornings either.

■ The bedroom should be an environment conducive to sleep — quiet, dark and cool. Your child's bed should be free of clutter and comfortable. Remove distractions such as computers, cell phones and televisions. Don't let kids to surf the Internet or check Facebook near bedtime.

■ Establish a routine before bed that includes quiet time, such as reading or a warm bath.

■ Avoid big meals and caffeine close to bedtime. For caffeine, current recommendations say it should be avoided as much as 6 hours before bedtime, which means no sodas after school.

■ Encourage regular exercise. Research shows that vigorous physical activity encourages better quality sleep.

■ Avoid bright light near bedtime to ensure your child's body clock is prepped for sleep. Open the blinds and expose kids to sunlight in the morning to get them up.

■ Be a role model. Set a good example by establishing your own regular sleep cycle and maintaining a home that promotes healthy sleep.

Healthy sleep habits make for healthy kids, so getting back into a routine this fall is essential. More tips and information about getting good sleep can be found at Sleepfoundation.org.

Dr. James Thompson is with Saint Joseph Neurology Associates, part of KentuckyOne Health

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