Sleep experts generally advise that a consistent bed time is very important to maintain good sleep habits. But summertime can mean that consistency doesn’t happen as kids may stay awake later at night. A recent study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests consistency of kids’ bedtimes is just as important for their developing brains as the number of hours of sleep they get. The results showed that at age 7, not having a regular bedtime was related to lower cognitive tests scores in girls for reading, math and spatial skills, but not for boys.
As the new school year approaches, Mohsin Maqbool, M.D., Director of the Pediatric Neurology Sleep Center and Laboratory on staff at the DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan offers the following tips to help kids and teens develop good sleep habits.
• Go to bed in a timely manner to assure sufficient sleep duration. That is the key to getting up on time in the morning, refreshed.
• Keep consistent bedtimes and wake times every day of the week. Late weekend nights or sleeping-in can throw off a sleep schedule for days.
• The national sleep foundation suggests that 5- to 12-year-olds need 10 to 11 hours of sleep every day.
• A child’s bedroom should be cool, quiet and comfortable. Children who stare at clocks should have their clocks turned away from them. Bedtime should follow a predictable sequence of events, such as brushing teeth and reading a story.
• Avoid spending lots of non-sleep time in bed — spending hours lying on a bed doing other activities before bedtime keeps our brains from associating the bed with sleep time.
• Adolescents can benefit from a daytime nap. A short nap (20 to 30 minutes) in the afternoon has shown to improve physical efficiency and cognitive performance. The key here is that the nap should not be longer than 45 minutes or else grogginess kicks in.
• Avoid high stimulation activities just before bed, such as watching television, playing videogames, communication with friends, or exercise. It is especially important to avoid these activities during a nighttime awakening. It is best not to have videogames, televisions, computers or phones in the child’s bedroom.
• Avoid caffeine (sodas, chocolate, tea, coffee) in the afternoons/evenings. Even if caffeine doesn’t prevent falling asleep it can still lead to shallow sleep or frequent awakenings. Caffeine should be avoided within 4 to 6 hours of bedtime.
• If a child is awake in bed tossing and turning, it is better for them to get out of bed to do a low stimulation activity, (i.e., reading) then return to bed later. This keeps the bed from becoming associated with sleeplessness. If the child is still awake after 20 to 30 minutes, spend another 20 minutes out of bed before lying down again.
As home to metropolitan Detroit’s only sleep center exclusively for children, DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan has helped thousands of children improve their sleep. The Children’s Hospital of Michigan offers sleep centers at their specialty centers in Canton, Clinton Township, Dearborn and Detroit.
For further information or to schedule an appointment, call (313) 745-KIDS (5437) or toll-free at (888) 362-2500 or visit www.childrensdmc.org/pediatric-sleep-center.